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Pacific Islander Health Week Targets Obesity and Chronic Diseases

Utah Pacific Islander Health week will feature a community forum with Sione and Filipe Fa, former contestants on television’s The Biggest Loser.";

Monday is the kick-off for an initiative to address health problems among Utah’s Pacific Islanders. In response to some of Utah’s highest rates of obesity, diabetes, and infant mortality, the Utah Pacific Islander Coalition has coordinated a series of health promotion events across the state.  

“Pacific Islanders in the state of Utah have the highest adult diabetes rate of any other ethnic group. It is more than twice as high as our white Caucasian population here,” says Jake Fitisemanu, Outreach Coordinator for the state’s Office of Health Disparities. “Nearly 80 percent of Pacific Islanders in the state of Utah are considered either overweight or obese, so these are some really big issues – pun intended – that deserve this kind of attention.”

Fitisemanu says traditional mainstream weight loss programs don’t always appeal to the Pacific Islander population. So during the health week, he says they try to provide a cultural, family-friendly atmosphere with a variety of resources and approaches.

“Some folks have never done things like Zumba before, so we’ll have those kinds of fitness classes for free available, just to give folks a wide range of exposure – to say hey, maybe one particular activity doesn’t fit my lifestyle, but I never knew about this, so let me give this a try,” he says.

The events kick off tonight with the Pacific Family Health Expo at the Sorenson Multicultural Center in Salt Lake City. The Expo will feature a variety of activity stations, fitness demonstrations, information booths, and free health screenings and services. This is the third annual health week for Utah Pacific Islanders.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Boston.com. Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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