Obesity-related medical care costs Alaska about $459 million every year. But over the past 10 years, both the state as a whole, and particularly the municipality of Anchorage, have been making concerted efforts to help children and families lead healthier lives. Some of the key efforts have included:
- releasing major city and state reports between 2003 and 2006 that put the issue of childhood obesity on the public agenda and provided a roadmap for action;
- adopting a wellness policy during the 2005-06 school year that promotes healthy eating and physical activity in the districts serving the Anchorage metropolitan area;
- awarding one of the two school districts serving the Anchorage metropolitan area with an obesity prevention grant to improve school nutrition and physical activity;
- expanding the student weight status surveillance system used for the Anchorage metropolitan area to six additional school districts to monitor obesity trends, inform prevention efforts and track progress;
- expanding universal school breakfast at all schools serving lower-income students;
- supporting a statewide public education campaign, Play Every Day, that motivates Alaska families to be physically activity and reduce consumption of sugary drinks;
- partnering with Healthy Futures to expand a free elementary school physical activity challenge to more than 18,000 students in almost 200 schools statewide, including almost all schools in the Anchorage metropolitan area;
- working with community leaders to establish Anchorage as a Let’s Move City; and
- making healthy, local foods more affordable by initiating and supporting the Farmers’ Market-Quest Card Program that enables Alaskans to use Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits at farmers’ markets, several of which are in the Anchorage metropolitan area.
The state also is participating in a research effort to understand the types of policies and strategies that may have contributed to the decline in childhood obesity.