Brian Johnson/AFN Julia Corbin (right) and Meaghan Sheridan get their practice in Thursday for a program for elementary girls called Girls on the Run that promotes proper nutrition, positive self-image and exercise. Led by parents Shawna Christofis, Jennifer Ensley and Kristin Dawon, the girls will participate in a 5K run Dec. 12 at Kiwanis Park in Tempe. Dec. 2, 2010

Obesity is a hot topic in Arizona, and has been for some time. The city of Phoenix, in particular, is making a concerted effort to keep children healthy with a program called “Million Hours of Play.”

The idea is to get children in the Valley to engage in at least one hour of physical activity each day in 2014 for a grand total of 1 million hours. The major push will be between April and August, when school is out for the summer.

Logging five hours per week can qualify kids for monthly prizes and, at the end of the summer, a drawing for a grand prize. The Phoenix Coyotes are among several local entities who have partnered with the program.

“It’s a fun campaign to get kids out there and playing,” said Lu Rodriguez, the program coordinator, adding that FitPHX focuses on more serious issues of improving health in the city, while she gets to work solely on the more fun aspects of playing.

The city’s website,, offers information on activities, sports leagues and venues to get plenty of activity this summer. Also offered are “playbooks,” where kids log their daily hour of play for the entire summer.

Playbooks can be picked up at the Pecos Community Center, 17010 S. 48th St., as well as other locations across the city.

The push is part of a larger effort, called FitPHX, led by Mayor Greg Stanton, Councilman Daniel Valenzuela and Olympic Gold Medalist Misty Hyman.

The statistical emphasis for such programs is difficult to miss: 191 Arizonians died from “morbid obesity” in 2012 — more than three times the number in 2002, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

The Phoenix City Council created FitPHX in 2013, working with the mayor and representatives from different areas of the city. These programs aim to improve the overall health of citizens in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

• Trevor Godfrey is a senior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He is interning this semester for the AFN.

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