A group of senior Brigham Young University-Idaho public relations students is carrying out a childhood obesity awareness campaign in Blackfoot.
The campaign’s focus is to increase Blackfoot’s awareness of childhood obesity, and the negative effects it has on a child’s physical and emotional wellbeing. The group’s work has been boosted by working with United Way, a prominent national non-profit organization with offices in Pocatello.
“The BYU-Idaho public relations campaign will focus public attention on the devastating impact of childhood obesity,” said Margaret Ganyo, executive director of United Way of Southeastern Idaho. “Given that nearly one child in three in Bingham County is overweight or obese, we hope this effort plants the seeds for kids to make healthy choices about food and activities.”
Flyers and brochures, describing ways to eat healthily on a budget, have been issued to hundreds of parents. The campaign group has attended several parent/teacher conferences and other school events in the county over the last month, including Blackfoot High School, Mountain View Middle School, Stalker Elementary and Irving Kindergarten.
“Childhood obesity has become an issue that is very important throughout the country,” said Harold Merritt, a teacher at MVMS. “It is nice to see young people bringing awareness of this issue to our community."
Many local businesses have donated several prizes associated with healthy living to the campaign, including a mountain bike, swimming pool passes and a monthly gym membership. By making a written pledge and setting a personal goal to live healthier, children and teenagers can be chosen from a raffle and win one of these prizes.
They have also been given bookmarks with the slogan, “Eat Smart, Play Smart, Live Smart,” as a reminder of their commitment to live healthier. A “Zumba Night” for teenagers and parents will be held at 8 p.m. on Feb. 29 at MVMS.
Such awareness and education is critical in immunizing ourselves from what has become an American epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that as of 2011, “Approximately 17 percent (or 12.5 million) of American children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese.” According to the New York Department of Health, the number of American overweight children has doubled in the last two decades.
Childhood obesity can be directly linked to the physical health problems of high blood pressure, diabetes, liver disease, heartburn, sleep apnea and asthma. Obese children also suffer social and emotional problems, such as low self-esteem, depression, bullying, and discrimination.
Idaho is not exempt from this epidemic and is one of 23 states to have seen its childhood obesity levels dramatically increase over the last 10 years. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Bingham County is one of 11 in Idaho to have an obesity level of over 29 percent. The county also has the state’s highest diabetes rate (10.2 percent).
BYU-Idaho students appear to have the knowledge and expertise required to tackle such a huge issue on a local level.
“We have amazing, talented students who do outstanding work,” said Michael Cannon, BYU-Idaho Department Chair of Communication. “They represent themselves, our program and BYU-Idaho very well. Their skills really shine and are put to good use for a worthwhile cause.”
For more information, contact Jonathan Kennedy, a BYU-Idaho senior and a member of the PR campaign group mentioned, at (208) 403-7522 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org .
“Eat Smart, Play Smart, Live Smart” is a public relations campaign designed to increase awareness of the health threats associated with childhood obesity. The campaign group, consisting of five BYU-Idaho Communication seniors, has received hundreds of pledges and commitments to live healthy lives from children and adolescents in Blackfoot. More information about the campaign can be found at http://eatsmartplaysmartlivesmart.weebly.com/