Obesity Prevention and Control Program
About the Program: What we are currently doing
Current Initiatives and Services
The following is a description of the Obesity Prevention and Control Program’s SFY15 current initiatives and services.
Play Every Day & Healthy Futures Campaign
Educating the Public
The program is inspiring children and families to be more physically active through a public education social marketing campaign and a school-based physical activity challenge.
Play Every Day!
The Play Every Day campaign delivers Alaska-specific messages focused on raising awareness about childhood obesity in Alaska and encouraging parents and families to prioritize daily physical activity and serving fewer sugary drinks to their families.
The Play Every Day campaign educates parents about the benefits of physical activity and provides ideas to increase the amount of physical activity for children to meet the national recommendation of 60 minutes every day needed for good health. Play Every Day is also working to encourage parents to serve their families fewer sugary drinks and to serve water and fat-free or low-fat milk as the healthiest drink options.
Play Every Day uses community and school events, as well as media and other marketing resources, to create a sustained campaign aimed at increasing youth and family physical activity, promoting participation in the Healthy Futures Challenge and physical activity events, and reducing sugary drink consumption.
Through our financial contribution and partnership with Healthy Futures
, the program is promoting a school-based physical activity challenge. Healthy Futures is a grassroots organization that started in 2003 by Alaska parents who were concerned about childhood obesity. In Alaska, about one out of three children is overweight or obese.
Healthy Futures, now the signature program of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame, encourages kids to build the habit of daily physical activity through three main efforts:
- Running a Physical Activity Log Challenge through Alaska elementary schools, and awarding prizes that promote physical activity to children who complete the challenge.
- Supporting community physical activity events by making them fun and affordable for families. These recreational events offer no- to low-cost safe physical activity opportunities. Simply by participating, all kids are rewarded with medals and cheers.
- Working with positive, physically active Alaska role models, including Olympians Kikkan Randall, Lars Flora, Holly Brooks, and Aelin Peterson; national hockey stars Scott Gomez, Joey Crabb and Tim Wallace; and Yukon Quest dog sled champion Aliy Zirkle.
The Healthy Futures Physical Activity Log Challenge happens twice a year in Alaska elementary schools. Participation in the challenge takes these children closer to the national recommendation of at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day for good health.
As a result of the state’s involvement with Healthy Futures, student participation grew from 1,342 students (2%) of elementary school age to more than 18,500 students (26%) during the fall 2014 challenge.
Promoting Fruit & Vegetables
Through our financial contribution and partnership with the Division of Public Assistance, Food Stamp recipients received direct-mail brochures announcing that their Quest card (SNAP benefits) could be used at the local farmer’s market.
Providing Regular Physical Activity and Nutrition Expertise to the Public
The Alaska print, television and radio media regularly requests the expertise of the program staff on topics related to obesity, nutrition, physical activity, and the Play Every Day campaign.
State & Local Community Interventions
Support Schools and Local Community Initiatives
To help schools, the program established a K-12 Obesity Prevention School Grant Program. These competitively selected grantees are creating, implementing, communicating, and enforcing strong school wellness policies that support high-quality physical education, increase daily student physical activity, and improve the school nutrition environment including bringing local, farm fresh foods, Alaska fish and salad bars to schools.
Hosting Trainings for School District Staff and Teachers
The program partners with the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development to provide professional development opportunities to school food service staff, school nurses, physical education and health teachers by hosting the annual School Health & Wellness Institute. The program also hosts an Alaska specific webinar training series to provide an affordable opportunity for school staff. Teachers’ training has focused on implementing PE programs that increase the length of, or activity levels in, school-based physical education classes. School food service staff training has focused on increasing the number of salad bars in schools, improving the connection to local farmers and gardens, and increasing the amount of wild Alaska fish served in school.
Supporting Local Foods in Schools
Through our partnership with the Division of Agriculture, the program helped fund competitive grants to schools to implement Farm to School projects. Eighteen projects were funded that spanned the state from Thorne Bay to Bethel. The projects involved 35 schools from 17 different communities. Students raised school gardens, visited local farms, and ate Alaska Grown vegetables and Alaska fish in their school meals. One school garden club grew and harvested 100 pounds of potatoes and 80 pounds of carrots. Students distributed their produce to a local soup kitchen, a local restaurant and the school cafeteria. The OPCP promoted the Nutritional Alaskan Foods for Schools grant to help all schools purchase more locally grown and harvested foods.
Improving Access to Healthy Local Foods for Low Income Alaskans
Through our financial contribution and partnership with the Division of Agriculture, and the Division of Public Assistance, the program continued to support the Alaska Farmers’ Market-Quest Program to assist farmers’ markets in accepting SNAP (“Food Stamps”) Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards, known as Quest cards in Alaska. This initiative makes healthy, local products more accessible to low income Alaskans and increases overall farmers’ market sales. During the summer of 2013, the program had the assistance of an Americorp VISTA volunteer, who helped expand the program from 5 markets to 10 markets. Customers used their Quest cards 880 times at the markets. A matching program provided $13,000 to Quest customers to help make their SNAP benefits go further at the market. With Quest, matching, debit and credit cards, the AFMQP generated nearly $115,000 for Alaska farmers and small businesses.
The Obesity Prevention and Control Program partnered with the Food Bank of Alaska to provide funding and technical assistance for their Alaska Cooking Project. Through DVDs and webisodes, local Chef Rob Kinneen shows how to cook healthy meals with foods available to low income Alaskans, such as foods available through food pantries, commodity foods, traditional food harvest and the Farmers’ Market Quest Program.
Improving the Alaska Food System
The program provides funding and leadership to the Alaska Food Policy Council (AFPC). Today, over 250 individuals from federal and state agencies, tribal entities, university programs, farmers, fisheries, and food systems businesses, participate in the AFPC. The intent of the AFPC is to provide recommendations and information regarding comprehensive policies that improve Alaska’s food system.
Surveillance & Evaluation
Assessing the Weight Status of Students
The program has partnered with nine school districts to collect and analyze student heights and weight to assess the weight status of the student population. School district officials use the trends to increase awareness of the extent of weight problems to school and health personnel, community members, and policy makers. The trends also provide an evaluation measure of the effectiveness of school district wellness policies, practices, programs and efforts to improve school health. Use of student height and weight data has strengthened school district grant applications by clearly identifying need, target populations, and by providing an evaluation mechanism. Alaska Student Weight Status results for each district are available online.
Increasing Public Access to Obesity Related Statistics
An unfortunately common bottleneck in public health is data dissemination. Capacity to collect and analyze public health data far outstrips the capacity to meaningfully interpret, develop and publish useful reports about the prevalence of obesity and its nutrition and physical activity related behaviors. Despite these challenges, the program has produced a comprehensive Alaska Obesity Facts report, a report on the Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity among Students in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and in the Anchorage metropolitan area schools, and fact sheets on sugary drinks, local foods, and breastfeeding in Alaska. Annually, the program contributes to obesity related data to the Indicator-Based Information System for Public health. IBIS-PH is a web-based system that provides a mechanism for increasing the amount of health-related data accessible to anyone with an internet connection through provision of a set of static indicator profile sheets and a query system for tailored data runs.
Administration and Management
Sufficient administrative and management capacity within a state health department will enable the program to plan strategic efforts, provide strong leadership, provide good fiscal management and accountability of activities, and foster collaboration among the state and community coalitions in a way that reduces duplication of effort among partners. An adequate number of skilled staff is also necessary to provide program oversight, technical assistance, and training for the public and partners.
Initiatives & Activities by Fiscal Year: