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Navajo-Hopi Observer | Flagstaff, Arizona

home : features : features April 30, 2016

9/3/2013 10:11:00 AM
12-year-old fights childhood obesity on Navajo Rez
Navajo-Hopi Observer

NEW YORK - After a nationwide search, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation selected Danyel Johnson, 12, of the Navajo Reservation Sanostee area, to serve on its 2013-2014 Youth Advisory Board.

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, an organization the American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation founded, is one of the nation's largest non-profit organizations working to reduce childhood obesity.

Johnson is entering her third year of service on the board and was chosen for her passion to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic by inspiring her peers, schools, and communities to live healthier lives.

The Alliance's Youth Advisory Board is one of the only youth-led advisory groups in the country focused on childhood obesity issues. The 21 youth leaders play an important role in advising and providing a youth perspective to the organization as the Alliance strives to encourage young people across the nation to make healthy choices. Board members serve as thought-leaders on childhood obesity issues, representing the Alliance at local and national events.

"Adults can sit around the table all day and talk about ways to reverse the obesity epidemic in childhood, but unless we have authentic youth perspective in the conversations we aren't going to get very far," said Dr. Howell Wechsler, CEO of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. "Our Youth Advisory Board members play a critical role in fighting this epidemic-raising their voices and inspiring their communities to take action."

Each board member is responsible for initiating healthy changes in their own neighborhoods and school districts by engaging in service-learning programs in their communities.

As a part of her work over the past years, Johnson promoted obesity awareness to her peers by helping with a school field day event and some run/walk events promoting exercise to get kids up and moving. She also started a health club at a few elementary schools that her little sisters attend. She intends to start more Wellness Clubs within her school district in the hope that she can get a few schools on board with the Healthy Schools Program.

Combining both her love for her Navajo Culture and her go-healthy lifestyle, she practices her traditional dances and singing as part of modeling a healthy lifestyle for her peers and for the young and old in her community. She is passionate about keeping her language alive and restoring harmony and healthy lives in the Navajo youth.

"I decided to join the Youth Advisory Board because people do not know that we as a Navajo Nation struggle with obesity in our young children, and I wanted to educate young people that changing to live and eat healthy is a choice that has to be made at an early age so that the future is better for them," said Johnson. "It helps them to be more confident in their self-esteem and helps them to be motivated to be active and eat healthy."

More information about the work of the Alliance's Youth Advisory Board can be found at

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