Hundreds of youth joined Hines Ward, member of the President’s Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and receiver for NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, along with fellow NFL players Troy Polamalu, safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Marcus McNeill, offensive tackle for the San Diego Chargers, to stress the importance of physical exercise and nutritious meals at a health and fitness fair on April 2 at the University of California, Los Angeles’ intramural field.
The event, sponsored by The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, addressed the soaring obesity and diabetes rates among high school youth, particularly within Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities and in the nation’s Pacific region.
Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) children have the highest rates of any minority group for being overweight or obese. These children hold an elevated risk for developing cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.
Sefa Aina, vice chair of the President’s Advisory Commission, spoke of how native foods once grown and eaten by Polynesians have since been replaced on the Pacific Islands by imported products. A reliance on cheap, fast food in the continental United States has contributed to unhealthy eating.
“One in five NHPI high school youths are obese, and one in three are likely to be overweight or obese,” Aina said. “Today, we’re sending a message that physical fitness and eating properly will lead to healthier living.”
He added that the message must also come from parents, schools, community leaders, and elected officials in order for it to be effective.
Jillian Michaels, health and wellness expert and a trainer on the hit reality show “The Biggest Loser,” led a fitness demonstration at the event and stated, “America’s obesity epidemic has reached catastrophic proportions, especially when it comes to our youth. I’m honored to participate in a program that shares my commitment to eradicating this problem, and I am grateful for events like these as we continue this important fight.”
Ward, who is a commissioner for the initiative, said that, as a professional athlete, he always wants to achieve his best for his teammates every time he steps onto the field. He emphasized that diet and exercise are a critical part of his regimen.
“Balancing a healthy diet with exercise is critical if you want to perform at your best. And teaching your kids this balance at an early age is the key to developing a healthy lifestyle,” he said. “In this age of video games, kids today don’t get much physical exercise, and we, as parents, need to change that.” ♦