YES I Can: How I Helped Start Healthy Kids and Teen Week in Hawaii
NPHW Healthy Kids and Teen Week in Hawaii
It all started last year with an e-mail invitation from the College Board and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation inviting me to participate in the Young Epidemiology Scholars (YES) Competition, the nation's leading public health competition for high school students. As part of entering the Competition, I was to submit an epidemiology report: a series of percentages and diagrams, all strung together in scientific terminology. Little did I know how my preconceived notions about poverty would change over the course of the Competition.
My project abstract is below:
A growing epidemic of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease is dramatically affecting the population of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. The purpose of this project is to study the physical and dietary behaviors of adolescents in the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population in contrast to other ethnic groups, as they relate to obesity, type 2 diabetes and future cardiovascular disease. High school students from upper and middle-income areas of Oahu recalled diet and exercise patterns and family medical history in anonymous surveys. In the attempt to analyze the association of adolescent dietary and exercise patterns of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders with the future risks of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, it became apparent that socioeconomic and demographic influences were stronger predictors of future health problems than ethnicity. This is counter to the commonly held belief in the thrifty genotype hypothesis promoting the link between genetics and obesity when analyzing indigenous peoples.
After the completion of my study, I was shocked to find out that the concept of "neighborhoods" had such a large impact on public health. At my school, seniors are required to complete a community service project in order to graduate, so I decided to do a project based on the findings of my study. I wanted to raise awareness about Hawaii's growing health disparities, and how some communities on my island (Oahu) were at higher risk for health related problems. After meeting Governor Linda Lingle at the International Women's Leadership Conference (I was sent as a representative of my school) and discussing my epidemiology report with her, she suggested that I write a Governor's Proclamation. Over the course of the next few months, I wrote a Proclamation with assistance from the State Department of Health that declared March 14 through March 20, 2010 to be "Healthy Kids and Teen Week."
Health disparity is an increasing threat to the people of Hawaii. If we target the youth of Hawaii and encourage them to make healthy decisions--as well also encourage others to provide children and teens with healthy environments--we may be able to decrease health related risks, and raise a healthy generation of future leaders.