Letter: Join in Healthy Effort

Letter: Join in Healthy Effort

— To the Editor:

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. We hear a lot about the problem nationally, but many Alexandrians don’t realize childhood obesity is a problem here, in our own backyard. A 2007 study by Inova Health System revealed that 43.5 percent of children ages 2-5 in our city are overweight or obese. That means that nearly half of our youngest residents are at risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and more.

The Alexandria Childhood Obesity Action Network (ACOAN) was formed in response to that startling statistic. Part of the Partnership for a Healthier Alexandria, ACOAN is a community-led initiative that focuses specifically on helping make the healthy choice the easy choice for all Alexandrians. In the past three years, as a result of ACOAN’s efforts,

  • over 15 preschools and 200 family childcare providers have adopted a curriculum that teaches preschool children that healthy eating and exercise are fun,

  • six new gardens where children and adults grow their own produce have been established,

  • four Alexandria playspaces have been improved, making them safer and more inviting, and on Sept. 13, a new KaBOOM! playground was built at the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority, and

  • two farmers’ markets have been approved to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, making it easier for lower-income Alexandrians to purchase fresh, local food.

These are just a few examples of what ACOAN and its partners have accomplished but there is more to be done.

The childhood obesity epidemic has both health and economic consequences that affect everyone in the community. It is in everyone’s interest that Alexandria’s children grow up healthy. Childhood obesity is preventable and we need more community members to work with us to make the healthy choice the easy choice. There are many ways you can help, either individually or as part of ACOAN. Learn more about our work at www.HealthierAlexandria.org or contact us to get involved at carrie.fesperman@vdh.virginia.gov.

Tricia Rodgers

Chair, ACOAN

Allen Lomax

Chair, Partnership for a Healthier Alexandria