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Conference focuses on building healthier communities

December 13, 2014 | Community News and Media, Media Coverage

Originally published in The Philadelphia Tribune

More than 300 attendees turned out for a conference focused on building healthier communities in New Jersey.

The New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids (NJPHK) hosted the Building Healthy, Equitable Communities Conference on Dec. 3 at the Pines Manor in Edison, N.J. The conference focused on providing participants with tools and best practices to build healthier communities by helping to incorporate health equity into current policies and practices, thereby helping to lessen chronic diseases such as obesity and address environmental factors contributing to health disparities.

“Nearly one-third of children in this country are overweight or obese, leading to a plethora of health issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol — issues that have been generally associated with adults in the past,” Dr. Darrin Anderson, deputy director of NJPHK, said in a statement. “By bringing together experts and community advocates to share practical solutions and best practices, we can make an even greater impact on the health of New Jersey families.”

Since its inception in 2009, NJPHK and its community partners have made great strides in implementing policy and environment changes aimed at preventing childhood obesity, including: assisting with the development of wellness policies and school wellness policies, renovating playgrounds, securing commitments from local corner stores to provide healthier choices, creating bike lanes, and co-sponsoring fun and fitness events.

“With continued collaboration among our partners, we can make a huge difference in reducing childhood obesity rates and ensuring that all of our children have the opportunity to achieve their full health potential,” Anderson said.

Community leaders, dietitians, teachers, school nurses and social workers attended the one-day conference, which was co-sponsored by the NJ YMCA State Alliance; Shaping NJ, New Jersey Department of Health; Family and Community Health Sciences, Rutgers Cooperative Extension; and the New Jersey Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics.

Featured conference speakers included Dr. Dwayne C. Proctor, director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Health Disparities Portfolio; and Dr. William H. Dietz, director, Sumner M. Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness, Milken Institute of Public Health, George Washington University.

A panel discussion moderated by Mike Schneider, anchor and managing editor of New Jersey public television’s NJTV news program, examined the causes of health inequities and strategies communities can use to address the issue.

NJPHK also presented Healthy Kids Champion awards to community leaders for their commitment and contributions in the following NJPHK-targeted communities: Camden — Meishka L. Mitchell, Cooper’s Ferry Partnership, vice president of neighborhood initiatives; New Brunswick — Michael G. Blackwell, superintendent of recreation in New Brunswick and executive director of “The First Tee of Raritan Valley”; Newark — Marguerite Leuze, special assistant for health and nursing, Office of Health Services of the Newark Public Schools; Trenton — Francis Blanco, chief of staff to Trenton Mayor Eric E. Jackson; Vineland — Stanley Burke, a longtime, dedicated community volunteer; and State Program Office — Barbara George Johnson, executive director of the John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy at Thomas Edison State College.

NJPHK is a statewide program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The goal of the program is to convene, connect and empower community partnerships across the state in order to design and implement childhood obesity prevention strategies that support access to affordable healthy foods and increase opportunities for safe physical activity in the cities of Camden, Newark, New Brunswick, Trenton and Vineland.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is the largest private foundation in New Jersey and the nation’s largest philanthropy working to improve health care.

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