Elementary school 6th grader wins health-themed "Fukushima Junior Challenge" grand prix

Kaho Kikuchi, a sixth grader of Matsunaga elementary school in the Fukushima Prefecture city of Aizuwakamatsu, won the top award in an annual contest on children's ideas for community-based health promotion programs sponsored by Fukushima-Minpo Co., the publisher of the namesake vernacular daily. Kikuchi proposed that idle classrooms at grade schools be used for elderly people to take a "class" in order to help promote good health and long life. This was highly appraised and received the top prize in the third edition of the "Fukushima Junior Challenge" contest among elementary school and junior high school students on ideas for town-building promotion and regional revitalization. ■ Fukushima-Minpo prizes given to another 6th grader, Dojima school group There were 272 entrants in the contest from elementary school and junior high school students across the prefecture that included organizations and groups, and 42 of them were selected as awardees, including the top award. In addition to the main prize, the Fukushima-Minpo award was shared by two applicants and Fukushima Medical University's special award was given to one, while gold prizes went to three, silver prizes to nine and bronze prizes to 26. Kikuchi won the top honor for the second straight year (she shared the previous award with her younger sister Haruka for their joint work in the second edition of the contest). This time, her proposal envisions inspiring elderly people to live healthier lives both physically and mentally through the use of idle classrooms, which have been increasing amid falling birthrates. If realized, she hopes, it would help activate intergenerational exchanges in local communities and lessen concerns over school closures. The Fukushima-Minpo awards were granted to Kaho Watanabe, a sixth grader of Josai elementary school in Aizuwakamatsu, and the "Dojima Nico Nico company" group made up of sixth graders at Dojima elementary school in Kitakata, including representative Yura Hanami. Watanabe examined means of prolonging life spans after studying whether there are secrets behind the longevity of residents in other prefectures and the nutrients of vegetables, among other things. The Dojima group developed a "health box lunch" using locally grown vegetables and taking nutritional balance into account. ■ Fukushima Medical University prize given to Katsurao junior high school Fukushima Medical University awarded its special prize, which commends activities that can be model initiatives and ideas to promote sound health, to a team from Katsurao junior high school in Katsurao village. Led by Sakura Watanabe, the team learned about the importance of reducing the dietary intake of salt while studying home economics, and proposed new meals for people in their community. Applicants were screened for the award by a panel of judges led by Senior Professor Mitsuaki Hosoya of Fukushima Medical University's Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, who acted as chief adviser to the latest edition of the "Fukushima Junior Challenge" contest. "It is important to become aware of salt reductions from childhood stages, and that helps parents bear in mind the need to use less salt (in meals for their children)," said Hosoya, who concurrently serves as director of the Health Promotion Center of the university's Fukushima Global Medical Science Center. "I would say this way of thinking contributes to how we can prepare to prevent lifestyle-related diseases," he added, appreciating the Dojima team's work. ■ Award ceremony set for Feb. 12 in Fukushima city An award ceremony will be held in the Fukushima-Minpo building in Fukushima city on Feb. 12, with all awardees but bronze award recipients scheduled to attend. Fukushima Junior Challenge: Sponsor -- Fukushima-Minpo Co. Supporting organizations -- Fukushima prefectural government, prefectural education board, prefectural private high school association, Fukushima manabi (learning) network, prefectural association of city mayors, prefectural association of towns and villages, prefectural association of chambers of commerce and industry, prefectural association of societies of commerce and industry, five JA (Japan Agricultural Co-operative)-linked entities in Fukushima, prefectural woods, forestry and greenery association, Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations, Fukushima Association of Invention and Innovation, prefectural association of tourism and local products exchanges, Fukushima Medical University Panel of judges: Chairman -- Naoya Maekawa (board member and secretary general, Fukushima "manabi" network) Judges -- Naoyuki Uenodai (head, prefectural government's regional promotion section), Yoshiko Ishihata (head, compulsory education section, prefectural government's education board), Hiroyuki Muto (prefectural private high school association), Tomiyasu Nakao (senior executive director, Fukushima-Minpo Co.) Chief adviser -- Mitsuaki Hosoya (senior professor, Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, Fukushima Medical University) (Translated by Kyodo News)