Let's Move Logo
Let' Move Blog

Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Health and Fitness: Winning the Future for Our Youth

Over the weekend, more than 1500 Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) youth and family members joined celebrity fitness trainer, Jillian Michaels, and professional athletes Troy Polamalu and Marcus McNeil at the University of California, Los Angeles, to answer the First Lady’s call. Our goal: draw attention to the increasing rate of childhood obesity among NHPI youth and promote physical activity and healthy living.

Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled. Among NHPIs, the numbers are especially dismal: one out of five NHPI high school youth is obese, one of the highest percentages among all racial groups in the country. Diabetes, heart disease and hypertension are plaguing the community. The time to address this crisis is now.

This is about inspiring our communities to eat healthier and get active.

We may come from different backgrounds – one of us is an educator, the other, a professional athlete — but we both know how important exercise and eating a balanced diet is for our youth. But staying healthy and fit isn’t something only professional athletes can achieve. You don’t need to sacrifice delicious food or stick to a strict workout regimen. Being healthy is about a lifestyle of responsible choices. For thousands of years, NHPIs remained active through work and expression of their culture in the forms of sports, work and dancing. They nourished their bodies with nutritious foods harvested from the land and ocean around them.

Our lives have changed quite a bit, and many of us are not able to fully emulate the lives of prior generations – when many of the NHPI ancestors lived off the land as fisherman and farmers. But in the modern world, we can still make responsible choices for our children and ourselves. We can snack on an apple instead of a chocolate bar; walk or ride a bike and not drive; and turn the TV or computer off and get active.

And the Administration, through the Let’s Move! Initiative is supporting these decisions and making it easier for all of us by promoting healthy eating and living, coordinating key federal programs, providing helpful information to families, and working with numerous partners across the country to address poor health outcomes in our community that are related to poor diet and lack of exercise. We’re working together across the country to make these changes.

We all have a part to play in achieving this goal. Let’s challenge each other to lead healthier, more active lives, so that young people can reach their full potential.

Sefa Aina is the vice chair of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and serves as Director of the Asian American Resource Center at Pomona College.

Hines Ward is a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, the Founder of the Hines Ward Helping Hands Foundation, and the MVP-winning wide receiver with the Pittsburgh Steelers.