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Anderson Speaks at 7th Biennial Childhood Obesity Conference

June 30, 2013 | Community News

Is childhood obesity prevention the real issue, or is it about creating equitable healthy communities through social responsibility? That was the topic of a roundtable discussion led by Darrin Anderson, Ph.D., deputy director of NJPHK, who represented the Partnership at the 7th Biennial Childhood Obesity Conference held in mid-June in Long Beach, Calif. The gathering is the nation’s premier conference on issues related to childhood obesity.

Anderson says childhood obesity prevention through environment/policy change has transitioned into a discussion about social equity/advocacy, and while it’s not an easy discussion, it’s an important one to have. “People have a tendency to talk about ethnicity and race rather than looking at the issue from an equality and environmental perspective. For instance, if you’re looking to bring fresh produce to a community, you have to look at the environment in which people live. If the environment doesn’t offer that, what can we do to change that? Our goal is to assure that all communities have access to the same amenities, which is what we’re addressing through the work of the Partnership.”

This year’s Biennial Childhood Obesity Conference, which attracted thousands of leading health experts, academics and community and organizational leaders from across the country, covered the gamut of subjects related to childhood obesity. Programs and discussions such as the one led by Anderson, were categorized into a variety of tracks including basic and applied research; the built environment, land use and transportation; community nutrition and physical activity; early childhood education; food systems; the health care approach to prevention; food marketing to kids; and school, after school and summer programs and policies.

In addition to the roundtable discussion, Anderson had the opportunity to present detailed information illustrating how the Partnership is structured at the state level and also in each of the five communities where it operates. “While we have similar goals for each city, the partnerships and collaborations in each community are different. They’re local, specific and authentic. It’s not a ‘one size fits all’ approach. The strategies were chosen by and for the community, and we depend on those partnerships to help us achieve our goals.”

Anderson said he heard a lot of good information during the conference, much of it validating the work being done by the Partnership. “I believe we’re a pacesetter in this area. Many of the topics discussed at the conference are things the Partnership has addressed because we’re on the front lines. My goal was to share our success, articulate our impact and identify individuals or approaches that could help us improve on our work.”

One such individual was Michele Stockwell, vice president of public policy at the Washington, D.C.-based Bipartisan Policy Center and executive director of the Bipartisan Policy Center Advocacy Network, a non-profit organization that drives principled solutions through rigorous analysis, reasoned negotiation and respectful dialogue with strong, proactive advocacy and outreach. Anderson looks forward to the opportunity to work with Stockwell and the Center on behalf of NJPHK.

One of the hottest topics at the conference, according to Anderson, was about marketing less than healthy foods to kids. While the Partnership is not directly involved in that national discussion, they’re well aware of what’s taking place, and use that information to better educate parents about these tactics. He also believes the same approach could be used to market healthier products to kids and to partner with the industry for solutions. He further cited the new Voices for Healthy Kids campaign, created through a collaboration between the American Heart Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation – which also supports the Partnership – as a new resource in the fight against childhood obesity and such marketing tactics.

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