Childhood Obesity and Weight-Related Illnesses
Childhood obesity has risen dramatically recent years, and the percentage of Asian American children in California at risk for becoming overweight has grown faster than for any other ethnic group. The problem is also substantially underreported for Asian American communities because of Asians who have normal or average body mass index (BMI) are in fact at much higher risk for weight-related health problems than children of other ethnic groups with the same BMI. The Asian Pacific Fund made grants to address this emerging problem, and we continued other work to help reverse this troubling health trend.
Ten community organizations received grants totaling nearly $150,000 in 2008 to implement intervention programs that emphasized healthy eating habits, exercise and recreation for low-income youth. The grants included free training workshops for community agency staff to learn more about obesity in Asian communities in order to strengthen their programs, and the Fund also devoted an entire issue of its Asian Outlook publication to draw attention to this health problem.
To continue raising awareness about Asian childhood obesity, the Fund organized a panel discussion at the 5th Biennial Childhood Obesity Conference in Los Angeles that featured experts on nutrition and weight-related diseases like type 2 diabetes. We convinced the conference planners of the need for such a session, identified the experts, and raised funds to support the presentation. The conference, hosted by the California Departments of Public Health and Education, had never before in its 10 years included a panel that specifically addressed Asian American health issues, and the panel discussion room was filled to capacity. Speakers included professors from the UCLA School of Public Health and UCSF School of Public Nursing, and researchers from Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute and Kaiser Permanente.
In addition to the panel discussion, the Fund held a press briefing to educate the public about this health risk. Only one in three Asian children in the Bay Area eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables every day, for example, and Asian American teens are the least active compared to their peers, according to the California Department of Public Health. Representatives from Chinese, Filipino and Korean communities attended the press briefing, which resulted in coverage by eight L.A.-based Asian print and broadcast media outlets.