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Preventing Obesity, on a Budget



Hundreds of local policymakers and health advocates traveled to Washington last week to brainstorm ways to reverse childhood obesity in a tight economic climate — and the family was well-represented among speakers.

Leadership for Healthy Communities (LHC) sponsored the two-day Childhood Obesity Prevention Summit to promote childhood obesity as a policy priority for local, state and national leaders, especially during the current tough economic climate. As policymakers across the country look for ways to trim their budgets, conference speakers explained why childhood obesity should still rise toward the top of the priority list — and pointed out that folks can take steps to reverse the epidemic without spending that much cash.

LHC released a special toolkit to conference attendees showcasing low-and-no-cost ways to increase healthy eating and active living.

Suggestions include establishing joint-use agreements for recreational areas, encouraging more time for recess while restricting the marketing of unhealthy products in schools, supporting farmers markets and encouraging government and other public buildings to offer healthier items in vending machines and other facilities. Click here to access the entire toolkit.

Conference sessions focused on a wide-range of topics, including food deserts, farmers markets, healthy school environments, food marketing, pricing strategies and private-public partnerships. Several Leaders spoke, including LHC’s deputy director Elise GoldsteinMargo Wootan from the Center for Science in the Public Interest; Samantha Graff from Public Health Law & Policy; Tracy Fox from the Robert Wood Johnson Center to Prevent Childhood Obesity; James Sallis from Active Living Research; and Elizabeth Wenk from Burness Communications.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Ken Yeager spoke alongside Wootan about efforts to reduce the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to kids. Yeager, you might recall, is the author of the groundbreaking bill that banned restaurants in his California county from giving away toys in children’s meals that don’t meet strict nutritional standards.

Yeager recalled the massive amount of attention (not all of it positive) that his legislation received, noting that “it made big news. Nothing like being first… it was a kick.”

Like all obesity-themed conferences, organizers made sure to provide a healthy environment for attendees. Healthy meals were served, with menus also including calorie counts for the meals, and an afternoon snack was a yogurt parfait topped with fresh fruit — which was served in a fun martini glass.