The Children’s Healthy Living Program, a project to build a healthy food and physical environment to prevent obesity among youth in the Pacific region, has earned a special honor from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food & Agriculture. The program was headed by the University of Hawaii and carried out in Guam by the University of Guam’s Cooperative Extension & Outreach service.
The Children’s Healthy Living Program received one of three 2019 Partnership Awards given to NIFA-supported projects. The award — the Mission Integration of Research, Education, and Extension award — recognized the program’s exceptional impact in solving a societal challenge.
“This is quite an honor,” said Rachael T. Leon Guerrero, director of the Office of Research & Sponsored Programs at UOG. “We worked for several years on this program collecting and analyzing data regarding the physical activity and eating habits of young children on Guam.”
University of Guam Extension Associate Clarissa Barcinas brings “Food Friends,” one of the many activities of the Children’s Healthy Living Program, to local elementary school students to promote healthy eating. Photo courtesy of UOG.
Based on the data collected, the team trained a public health nutrition workforce; conducted public health nutrition research; developed a food, nutrition, and physical activity data-management and evaluation system; and communicated nutrition and health-related information to the public. The team also implemented the Getting Guam Healthy Incentives Program, which showed positive outcomes for both children and their parents through individual, family, and community activities.
Building on these activities, the government of Guam funded the Walk to Wellness Program and the Early Start, Fit for Life Initiative that encouraged walking among Guam residents and enabled professionals to conduct health screenings, provide educational outreach, and promote physical activity for children after school.
The team that worked on the grant through UOG’s College of Natural & Applied Sciences included Leon Guerrero; Extension Agent Mark Acosta; Assistant Professor of Nutrition Tanisha Aflague; Dean Margaret Hattori-Uchima of the School of Health; Associate Professor of Health Sciences Yvette Paulino; and Extension Specialist and Professor of Agriculture Economics Robert Barber Jr.
Research informs the extension programs needed in Pacific Island communities, and as a land-grant university, the University of Guam is able to apply for and receive grant monies, including from federal agencies like USDA NIFA, to offer extension programs that address the needs and issues specific to Guam and the region.