Program helps fight obesity

Thumbs up: YMCA

Strong Kids Strong Teens, a weight and nutrition education program, started in Seattle in 2003 as a collaboration between the YMCA and Seattle Children’s Hospital. Olympia’s YMCA has adopted the program at its two South Sound locations and is logging great success. Dionne Tarter enrolled her daughter, Kiersten, in the program after the girl’s doctor became concerned. Eighteen weeks later, Tarter said, the program has helped change her 7-year-old daughter’s outlook on nutrition. Tarter said having others provide the positive message really helped her daughter realize the importance of eating well. More than 130 families have taken advantage of the YMCA program from Olympia through Snohomish County. Locally, 13 families have participated since the program was first offered last September. To be eligible, children must have a body-mass index in the 85th percentile or higher. Families are steered toward the program by their doctors, and children and parents are required to express a “readiness for change” based on a questionnaire. For the first 12 weeks of the program, groups meet for two 90-minute sessions each week. Sessions are held once a week for the final six weeks. Each meeting includes lessons about nutritional habits as well as physical activity in the form of games designed to ensure children enjoy the experience. “Parents have to be willing to commit to the program,” Tarter said. “It can be the greatest thing, but if you don’t commit, then what’s the benefit?” In this age of childhood obesity, it’s terrific that the YMCA has this program available to families in our community.

Thumbs down: Polluter

The state Department of Ecology has fined Longview-based Chinook Ventures $40,000 for spilling petroleum coke into the Columbia River in February. Agency officials last week told Chinook Ventures to stop unloading coke from rail cars onto river barges until the company gets permits to make sure its conveyor belt is safe. The belt is suspected as the source of the pollution. The Longview company is conducting its own investigation of the spill. Company officials say they are unsure what happened, but have agreed to stop moving petroleum coke onto the barges until the investigation is complete. Chinook Ventures also has hired an outside engineering company to review its operations, including the conveyor belt. According to the Longview Daily News a river pilot reported an oily black sheen in the river on the morning of Feb. 2, just downstream from Chinook Ventures. The black sludge, which stretched as far as 10 miles, had dissipated before anyone could clean it up. Most of the petcoke spill, which ranged between 25 and 50 cubic yards, likely settled at the bottom of the river and the shoreline, Ecology officials said. They also said over the long term, exposure to petcoke in the water can be harmful to fish and wildlife in the Columbia River.

Thumbs up: Estuary project

Salmon swimming in the Nisqually Reach have a new place to rest, feed and spawn thanks to a habitat- restoration project at the Beachcrest neighborhood’s community beach. It cost $239,000 to create the 1.4-acre estuary and nearly a mile of stream habitat for fish use. The estuary project, a short distance from a much larger estuary restoration project at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, will open up new spawning habitat for chum and pink salmon and coastal cutthroat trout, said Kristin Williamson, a salmon restoration biologist for the salmon enhancement group. Funding for the construction project came from the state’s Salmon Funding Recovery Board ($182,394), the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation ($38,400) and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Nisqually Reach Nature Center ($18,500). That’s a great partnership leading to a great result and another step toward restoration of southern Puget Sound.

Thumbs down: Fraud

Kala Lorraine Johnson, 33, recently was charged with 22 fraud-related felonies for allegedly filing false occupational injury claims with the state Department of Labor and Industries to get prescriptions for painkillers and muscle relaxants from medical clinics all over western Washington. Labor and Industries denied every claim because the agency routinely flags the names of suspicious people who repeatedly file occupational injury claims with the state. The medical facilities where Johnson obtained fraudulent prescriptions lost money because some of them paid Johnson’s bills before L&I rejected the claims. Workers who sustain on-the-job injuries deserve assistance from Labor and Industries. But those who try to scam the system must be held accountable and punished for their fraudulent claims.