May 17, 2010

Can cities solve childhood obesity?

“And so we know in Newark and in cities all across America that there are families that don’t let their children play because there’s no safe places to play, no green spaces to play. They want to keep their kids in the house for the basic human need of security. We also know that there are no healthy food options for many families, either at the schools that they send their kids to, or no healthy options even because they don’t have access to supermarkets or places with even green vegetables.”

- Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, N.J. introducing the First Lady’s initiative, Let’s Move

Mayor Booker's poignant quote highlights a real problem that we see in our cities. How do we introduce healthy food to children and communities that have no access to it? How do we provide more and better opportunities for outdoor play when parents don’t feel comfortable opening the front door? How do we encourage more physical activity amongst the 70 percent of children who don't get the recommended 60 minutes of daily exercise?

Last week, KaBOOM! staff participated in a conference, called “Healthy Eating, Active Living 2010: Implementing Citywide Policies to Prevent Obesity,” to address these very questions. Sponsored by Leadership for Healthy Communities, it coincided with the release of the Obesity in the District of Columbia report and the Obesity Action Plan for the District of Columbia.

Participants included representatives from the DC nonprofit community—including SHIRE, Save the Children, Alliance for a Healthier Generation, and NPLAN—as well as elected and appointed officials from DC across departments—including Planning, Health, Parks and Recreation, City Council, Mayor's Office, Schools, and Police.

The conference focused on the disparities of childhood obesity, using the action plan as a framework for working toward a solution. It also highlighted some tangible solutions from the recently released White House Task Force action plan, including rethinking how we design public housing so that there is a stronger focus on the neighborhood. But there is much more that must be done—and funded. How do we start changing our own communities?

Maya Rockeymoore, executive director of Leadership for Healthy Communities put it best when she said, "…when people think obesity prevention, they automatically think of the Department of Health or the public school system,” when in fact, people should be looking towards all government agencies, "as well as community groups, churches, nonprofits, and businesses" to help tackle obesity.

Let us know what you think—and make sure to read the White House Task Force report and the DC Action Plan!

kaboom! news, childhood obesity, michelle obama, washington dc, let's move, white house