Moving to Action
This post was written by Mildred Thompson, Director of the PolicyLink Center for Health and Place and the Deputy Director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center to Prevent Childhood Obesity.
How thrilling to read through the report from the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity! Finally we have a comprehensive national strategy for all levels of government to address the epidemic of childhood obesity. As a team member at the meeting from which many of the recommendations were drawn, I was hopeful, yet cautious to see what had been included in the report.
The meeting I participated in at the White House included advocates who have been working on this issue for many years and members from the highest levels of government – all of us together sharing ideas about addressing obesity, “within a generation.” All of us clearly interested in the subject and many had been working for decades on seeking and implementing solutions. Reading the comprehensive report and recommendations, it is evident that the voices of the experts included in the process were heard.
The meeting I attended was just one point of entry into the creation of the final document – there were many other channels of input and the White House staff conducted their own extensive research. However I was very proud to see some of the specific recommendations that came from our meeting included – such as promoting the need for grocery stores in low-income communities and offering the National Food Financing Initiative as a viable solution. We also underscored the need for an overall framing of the issues to address the complex land use and built environment challenges which impact access to healthy affordable foods and physical activity.
One example of how progressive some of the 70 recommendations are is the statement that “Too many Americans live in communities with limited access to supermarkets and grocery stores…..public transportation to supermarkets is often lacking.” Having our current administration understand and promote the connection between health and place is quite encouraging.
What do we do now? Whose responsibility is it to move these recommendations into action? It is all of our responsibility.
Yes, we must hold the administration accountable. But we should not wait for them to accomplish all that is needed to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic. Yes, there is a role for the various federal departments, public health agencies, and philanthropy certainly has a role. But we must ask ourselves, what can we do, among all the hats we wear, where can we insert ourselves and make a difference? This will require bold action and broad sector engagement! Let’s stand together to make this real, especially for the most vulnerable among us.
Mildred Thompson is the Director for the PolicyLink Center for Health and Place; and Deputy Director for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center to Prevent Childhood Obesity