By Rebecca Shaw, Project Coordinator
"Those children are our children too. Compassion helps us stop judging and start helping."- U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy
Sitting in a packed room among hundreds of representatives from organizations dedicated to ensuring that all children grow up to be a healthy weight, I was amazed about how an effort that began six years ago had blossomed into a powerful force, truly making a difference.
The Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) is a national effort to make the healthy choice the easy choice for American families, to help end the childhood obesity epidemic within a generation. Last week PHA hosted their annual Building a Healthier Future Summit.
From the start of the Summit, it was clear that the discussions focused around mobilizing resources to educate individuals from early childhood about the importance of healthy eating and physical activity and help ensure that everyone can be successful in this aspect of life. As Patricia Nece, a panel speaker who has lived with obesity her entire life stated, “We need to move away from blame and shame, and towards constructive solutions.” It was clear that a collaborative, supportive environment has facilitated the success of PHA.
During the opening and closing plenaries, a vast and varied number of organizations - from universities, to non-profits, to food product sponsors, to hospitals - were recognized for their work in their commitments to build a healthier future.
Every organization represented at this Summit made significant contributions to this work, often in ways that are not typically thought about. One breakout session addressed how convenience stores are working to influence consumers in making healthy choices at the checkout lines by replacing candy and soda with healthier options, like water and fruit, near the cash register.
Another breakout session on early childhood education for children highlighted how Pre-K has the highest rate of expulsion than all other grade levels. When children are engaged in physical activity from an early age, they find constructive ways to utilize their energy. There’s a link between health and education; they are not mutually exclusive.
For more than a decade, AASA has worked to address the childhood obesity epidemic by focusing on issues related to Healthy Eating and Active Living in schools. During the summit, AASA was recognized as an Educational Leadership Partner of Let’s Move! Active Schools,a sub-initiative of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign.
As a representative of a new partner, I, along with my co-worker Kelly Beckwith (pictured above, representing AASA on stage), were able to network with other partners of this initiative. We were able to have deeper discussions with our peers who also focus on keeping kids healthy inside schools.
“Our children are a reflection of our investment in them." -First Lady Michelle Obama
As First Lady Michelle Obama took the stage to deliver her keynote speech during the closing plenary, the room filled with anticipation. That Friday, the FDA finalized the new and improved Nutrition Facts label, to help give consumers the information they need to make healthy choices. “You'll no longer need a microscope to figure out whether the food is actually good for your kids,” said the First Lady.
The First Lady also told the audience that the work from each and every organization that works with the Partnership for Healthier America would be sustained long after her family leaves the White House. "I may not be First Lady next year, but I will always be here as a partner in this effort," she stated to a standing ovation.
Experiencing the commitment exuded in so many sectors and in such a variety of stakeholders from this summit has made me confident that this effort will be sustained for many years. I was honored to participate in this conference.