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Pacific Islanders and Alaska Natives have among the highest rates of adult obesity in the world, yet few published data are available for children in the Pacific Region.  Data gathered from US affiliated Pacific jurisdictions show overweight and obesity prevalence rates that vary among age, ethnic & geographic sub-populations.

  • In the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, overweight plus obesity rates were 26% among 2-6 year olds and 45% among 7-10 year olds,
  • In American Samoa rates among preschool age children were 37%
  • In Alaska rates among preschool age children were 40%.
  • in Hawaii Pacific Islander children (5-8 years old) were 2.6 times more likely to be overweight or obese compared to Whites.

Age has been found to be positively associated with the risk for obesity and overweight and education level was protective.

Pacific children average approximately 10 percentage points higher than their US mainland counterparts, with increasing disparity as they get older. Further, since these data are compared to the US Centers for Disease Control reference data, which represent an overweight population, the statistics are underestimates, demonstrating an urgent need for multi-level change to avert future health disaster.

Stemming from previous work in the Pacific region on projects such as Healthy Living in the Pacific Islands (HLPI) Initiative, researchers from US-affiliated Pacific academic institutions in Alaska, American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Freely Associated States, Guam, and Hawaii formed a consortium that developed a common vision, strategy and work plan, and developed behavior analysis tools for use in the Pacific.  In April 2011, the group was awarded a 5-year Food and Agricultural Science Enhancement (FASE) Coordinated Agricultural Program (CAP) among Pacific Region USDA-defined Experimental Program for Stimulating Competitive Research (EPSCoR) grant from the United States Department of Agriculture for the “Children’s Healthy Living Program (CHL)”, with a goal to prevent child obesity and improve health.

Specific objectives are to:

  • design and test a community-based environmentally-focused intervention program
  • enhance existing educational programs in the region for child obesity prevention
  • train for relevant academic degrees
  • develop a system to aggregate nutrition and obesity related data
  • provide information to the public
  • incur policy change

The CHL program seeks alignment and collaboration from partners with shared vision and goals throughout the Pacific Region, for sustainable changes to prevent obesity and future non-communicable disease, and to improve health.