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No Ka Oi Health

September 2022 brings awareness to two important health topics related to our keiki — childhood obesity and childhood cancer.

Childhood obesity awareness

Awareness around childhood obesity is important because it’s one of the most serious, yet preventable, public health challenges of this century. Obese children are much more likely to become obese adults, which further puts them at increased risk for various medical issues throughout their life, including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, cancer, joint problems and mental health conditions such as depression. Childhood obesity can also greatly affect their quality of life, including self-esteem and the ability to enjoy daily life.

Currently, more than 12.7 million children between 2 to 19 years old in the U.S. (nearly 20 percent) are obese. A further concern includes the fact that childhood obesity can lead to Type II diabetes in kids. The first case of Type II diabetes in a youth was in 1980. This was concerning because Type II diabetes previously only occurred in adults. Type II diabetes continues to dramatically increase in U.S. children with around 5,000 new cases diagnosed each year.

Childhood obesity can be preventable by managing weight with simple lifestyle changes. Together, you and your family can make simple changes that are effective at managing weight, including:

• Choosing healthy snacks, such as a piece of fruit, veggies or nuts.

• Drinking water instead of sugar drinks, which have zero nutrients and can lead to large weight gains.

• Cutting back on processed food, which is full of added salt, sugar and fat.

• Move your body every day (60 minutes for children) doing activities that you enjoy.

• Cut back on screen time. Read a book, play a game as a family or do something fun outdoors together.

Childhood cancers awareness

Awareness around childhood cancer is a very important topic because pediatric cancer is the leading cause of death for children under the age of 14 years old.

At the top of the list when it comes to the topic of childhood cancer is the personal heartache each family feels when they hear the words that their child has cancer. It’s important to find out all you can about the different types of cancer that affect children, so you can share this information with friends and families to help save children’s lives.

Here are five facts you need to know about childhood cancer:

• 43 children are diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. every day.

• Globally, about 400,000 children and adolescents are diagnosed each year.

• Almost 10 percent of children with cancer inherited a genetic mutation.

• Neuroblastoma is a rare type of cancer that almost always affects children.

• There is hope! There are approximately 483,000 childhood cancer survivors.

It’s important to know the possible signs of childhood cancer, including unusual lumps, swelling or ongoing pain in one area of the body. Knowing these signs is important for early detection. Make sure to take your children to their pediatrician for annual wellness exams and additional visits if your child develops concerning signs, symptoms or any other changes in their physical health and/or behavior.

There are many resources for families coping with childhood cancer:

• Hawaii Children’s Cancer Foundation: Serves families coping with cancer by offering financial support, support groups and workshops for children, families and long-term survivors. Visit www.hccf.org/.

• Pacific Cancer Foundation: Located on Maui, this group assists cancer patients (youth and adults) and their caregivers on every step of their cancer journey. PCF offers patient navigation, transportation, lodging, nutrition services, support groups, and more. Visit PCF at pacificcancerfoundation.org/.

Improving skills on living healthy can help prevent childhood obesity and can help prevent some forms of cancers. Eat a healthy diet full of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and protein; drink water rather than sugar drinks; move your body in any way that is enjoyable; get plenty of sleep; put down the screen and spend time laughing with family and friends. As a parent or guardian, it’s important to lead by example. Together, your family can live a healthier lifestyle.

For more information on childhood obesity, childhood cancers and healthy living, contact the Public Health Education office at the Maui District Health Office at (808) 984-8216.

* Kristin Mills is a public health educator with the state Department of Health’s Maui District Health Office. No Ka Oi Health is published on the fourth Thursday of every month.

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