Poster of Alaska Native teenager jumping in a gymnasium

Actively Fighting Childhood Obesity

By Ginny A. Roth ~

Poster of Alaska Native teenager jumping in a gymnasium.
Make the Leap to Health!, 2003
National Library of Medicine #C04109

The rise in childhood obesity has been growing at an alarming rate. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. Although steps need to be taken year–round to prevent childhood obesity, special attention is paid to this epidemic during National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month which takes place annually during the month of September. Good nutrition, as discussed  in the Presidential Proclamation on National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, plays a key role in teaching children to develop healthy habits that they can carry with them into adulthood. Parents and caregivers can refer to the Weight Control Information Network, a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases, for guidelines on how to determine if a child is overweight.

American Indian and Alaska Native communities are among those that are affected by childhood obesity. The 2003 poster featured above, published by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, promotes the concept of teenagers having an active lifestyle to help in the prevention of health issues that can be caused by obesity, including type-2 diabetes and heart disease. At annual events such as Alaska Native Youth Games and the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics, children and adults test their strength, endurance, and agility in traditional contests such as the high kick, in which competitors kick balls suspended at head level or higher.

In 2009, The National Indian Health Board, a nonprofit organization that advocates for improvements in health care for American Indian and Alaska Native people, launched the Obesity Prevention and Strategies for Native Youth Initiative which identifies programs targeting childhood obesity in Tribal communities.

In 2013, leaders from American Indian and Alaska Native communities formed a partnership with the Let’s Move program launched by Michelle Obama in 2010 in an effort to prevent childhood obesity. Let’s Move in Indian Country (LMIC) seeks to provide a healthy and active environment for American Indian and Alaska Native children who according to LMIC are affected by childhood obesity at some of the highest rates in the United States.

Learn more about Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian health and wellness on the National Library of Medicine’s Web site, Native Voices: Native Peoples’ Concepts of Health and Illness.  Follow the links below to explore specific topics from the exhibition:

Informal portrait of Ginny RothGinny A. Roth is the Curator of Prints & Photographs in the History of Medicine Division at the National Library of Medicine.


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