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The Root’s Focus on Obesity Conference

Posted Jul 13 2012 6:20pm
The Root Magazine held a “Focus on Obesity” conference today at the Washington Post as part of their Black, Fit & Healthy Series. The American Beverage Association sponsored the event, along with the Office of Minority Health in the Department of Health and Human Services, and HBO. Sam Kass, White House assistant chef and senior policy advisor for food initiatives, delivered the keynote address. Three series of panels brought together prominent speakers from government and private groups that fight obesity within the African American community. The conference was geared towards discussing solutions to the obesity epidemic. Below are some ideas panelists threw out, compiled by Christine Gary, MS, from our Washington, DC office.

Home and Community Solutions
·         With Bloomberg’s proposed soda ban setting the stage for this panel, speakers championed the individual citizen’s informed choice over governmental bans or taxes on food.
·         The panel instead supported educational health campaigns, parental role models, and community partnerships.
·         Mayors are connecting the private and public sector to fund community renovation. By partnering with organizations, cities can create safe clean parks, sidewalks, bike lanes, etc.
·         Churches and workplaces are now incorporating wellness services.

Sam Kass Keynote Luncheon
·         The Army says obesity is the #1 disqualifying factor for service in the military. Four-star generals say obesity is the #1 threat to national security. Sometimes out of shape recruits need pre boot camp before boot camp.

Disparities Solutions Panel
·         Health care providers need to understand the cultural dynamics and gender specific issues w/n the African American community.
·         Doctors should be reimbursed for providing the ongoing counseling needed for lifestyle changes.
·         ACA allocates $16 million in funds for obesity and hypertension, and $74 million in prevention funds (which include obesity as it relates to heart disease and diabetes). But small communities and non-profits are competing with big boys (John Hopkins and AHA) in a losing battle for funds.
·         Instead of talking about childhood obesity, which can plant seeds for body image issues, shift dialogue to spotlight health; how to build healthy families and healthy cities and communities.
·         Why are white people the gold standards against which African Americans are compared? Journalists need to be aware of what stories they cover and promote. Recently a study claiming black girls don’t benefit as much from exercise as white girls got extensive media coverage, even though the study was fraught with design errors.

School-Based Solutions Panel
·         Physical education should be kept in schools and held to high standards. It should incorporate assessable learning outcomes and planned sequential sessions. The CDC has a Physical Education Curriculum Analysis Tool .
·         Get creative. Serve pizza w/ portobello mushrooms the children grew in a school garden during science class.
·         Panelists debunked the assumption that it costs more to eat healthy.
·         The ABA representative said their recent change in school beverage offerings was well received, and credited the focus groups they had with mothers prior to for the smooth transition.
·         Two good resources mentioned were the National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-schools program , and the Parent-Teacher Association’s family-school partnerships .

See the full conference agenda ; Find  The Root on Facebook ; Follow them on  Twitter ; Event hashtag: #focusonobesity
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