Health Watch/Portage Health/Angela Luskin, Community Health Organizer

Obesity has become one of the leading health concerns in our country and Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula is not immune. Obesity has become a major concern in our area, with more than 25 percent of our adult community obese. In addition, more than half are overweight.

The impact on our healthcare system is also considerable as the overweight population is statistically at higher risk for health problems. Average lifespan drops and incidences of diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure and other chronic illnesses are more common.

This is a problem right now, but what’s scarier is that it is a problem that will likely get worse if we don’t teach our children proper health and nutrition habits.

This is the final week of the 2012-13 school year, which means summer 2013 is finally here for our children. There couldn’t be a better time to kick start a healthier future for you and your children. Below are several achievable steps that you and your family could focus on this summer.

Do something active every day. The National Football League has been promoting this idea with their Play 60 campaign. Kids need activity on a daily basis, and they need to learn that it can and should be fun. Help your kids be active this summer by making an active lifestyle fun.

Make good nutritional choices the natural option for kids. Rather than preaching about the importance of eating healthy foods, make fruits and vegetables easily attainable. Don’t have pop, or other sugary beverages in your home. Do this and you’ll have happier and healthier kids.

Limit screen time. Sometimes it’s easy to just let the kids sit and watch television, tinker on the computer or play their video games, but too much isn’t good. Try to focus on limiting the amount of time your kids spend doing this, especially in the summer when they’re home for longer amounts of time.

Take advantage of our natural resources. We are blessed to live in an outdoor paradise. Use our natural recreational resources to your advantage. Encourage your family to spend time at the beach, enjoy the miles of hiking and bike trails, spend time with your children fishing and encourage their mental and physical development by utilizing all the natural resources that surround us.

Make sure your child meets with his or her doctor. Your pediatrician is a great resource for you and your family. They know your child’s history and can be a key ally and resource in your quest to be a healthier family.

Be a good role model. You know your kids look up to you and will develop the same habits and share your values. If you spend time investing in your health and encourage them to do the same, you will realize a healthier family and contribute to making a healthier community.

At Portage Health we’ve continued to support as many active events as possible, from organized sports to silent sports to recreational areas. As part of our commitment to a healthier community, we are introducing a new program for kids this summer named Jump Start for Kids. It is a four-week camp focused on helping our area youth develop a solid base of nutrition, exercise and lifestyle habits. There will be three different sessions offered. The first begins next week, The second and third will take place in July and August. If you’re interested in having your child participate, contact me at (906) 483-1153 or The camp is designed for children ages 8 to 11, and is free for all participants, but space is limited.

Editor’s note: Angela Luskin is the community health organizer at Portage Health