Yesterday, I was invited to an event that began with a wonderful reception at the Maxwell Place, residence of Drs Eli and Mary Lynne Capilouto (President and his wife) on the University of Kentucky's campus. The University of Kentucky (UK) hosted the KY Leadership Summit on Childhood Obesity in partnership with Kentucky Youth Advocates and Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and with support of a health policy grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Summit kicked off after the reception with opening remarks from Dr. Steven Wyatt from the School of Public Health at UK and Terry Brooks, Executive Director at Kentucky Youth Advocates. They both did a good job of framing the day… why we were there and what they hope we would accomplish by the end of the day. We were a selected group of organizations and individuals (about 50 people total) in attendance and they hoped we would come to consensus on 3 action items for next steps to address childhood obesity in the Commonwealth.
Bill Goodman from Kentucky Education Television interviewed David Jones, representing the Board of Education for Jefferson County Public Schools. David was the Chair of the Humana Board (in which he is still a member) and runs a venture capitalist, Chrysalis Ventures that funds innovative health and technology projects. David suggested that in Kentucky we are fortunate to have a lot of green space, where farmers markets and community gardens may continue to flourish. However, in the urban settings, which he called vertical cities, green space is few and far between. The key to change is using science, knowledge and marketing skills to change the food industry. With Yum! Brands located in Kentucky, we have an opportunity to work with them, not against them, to change the landscape in our communities. They have the skills, brain power and background in the engineering of food in which we can tap into to create healthier communities. David would like to see more education, as he views education to be a direct correlation to health. He also believes we need to change the price of calories, making the nutrient-rich choice the more affordable one.
After the morning interview with David, there were 4, 10 minute TED-style talks given by Dr. Leon Mooneyhan, CEO from Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative, Dr. Heather Erwin, Director of Graduate Studies at UK, Dr. Tom Shelton Superintendent, Fayette County Schools and Jamie Sparks, Director of Coordinated School Health, Kentucky Department of Education. Highlights include Heather discussing the research behind how implementing Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs (CSPAP) does NOT decrease academic achievement. She went on to discuss the links between health and academic achievement. Tom Shelton talked about how schools sometimes implement silent lunch and take away recess or use physical activity as a punishment. Tom asked, "Who are you trying to punish? The teacher or the kid?" Jamie talked about how in school health we keep trying to find more water to put out the fire versus actually addressing the issues. "We need to get to a point where PE and Health Education is a normal part of the school day. Obesity is a river with lots of contributaries. There are many moving parts." Jamie went on to say that racial, disability and gender inequities were not created within school environments. They were bigger social issues in which schools addressed and became agents of change. Obesity is no different. Schools, as entire communities should address the issue.
In the afternoon, there was an expert panel facilitated by Bill Goodman and included Julie Brackett, VP of Advocacy at the American Heart Association, Dr. Heather Erwin, Director of Graduate Studies at UK, Dr. Stu Silverman, ED at Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence and Dr. Susan Zepeda, CEO Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. I currently do contract work with the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and was thrilled to hear Susan discuss how philanthropy/Foundations can help support and address the issue of childhood obesity within schools. She reminded us how the norm should be creating healthy environments and how we all need to model healthy behaviors. We did it with tobacco.
We were then assigned into break out groups to discuss what the ONE next step we would like to see to address childhood obesity within school environments in the Commonwealth. It was wonderful to hear Wilson Sears from the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents say, "Put a certified PE teacher in every school." My break out discussed building awareness, who the right influencers are to build awareness, fitness measures for schools and increase community engagement. Each of the 3 break out groups came to consensus on their top three ideas and from there, all 9 ideas were distilled to three. The three big ideas will be around support and professional development to educators (builds awareness), community and school partnerships and policy. Next steps include workgroups to being strategic planning to implement some of the ideas we discussed in the initial meeting.
Organizations represented were:
Kentucky Youth Advocates
Kentucky School Board Association
Kentucky Cancer Consortium
YMCA of Greater Louisville
American Heart Association
Kentucky Department of Education
University of Kentucky
Center for Rural Journalism and Community Issues
Former Meade County Superintendent
KY Assocation for Health, PE, Recreation and Dance
Kentucky Education Television
Kentucky Association of School Councils
Hardin County Schools
JCPS Board of Education
UK, College of Education, School of Public Health, Department of Pediatrics, College of Agriculture
Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky
Kentucky Board of Education
KY Cabinet for Health and Family Services
KY Association of School Superintendents
Fayette County Schools
Lincoln County Schools
Susan Zepeda encouraged us all to model healthy activities. Proud to say the day ended with a gorgeous bicycle ride in Mammoth Cave National Park with Jamie Sparks and Stephanie Bunge from the Kentucky Department of Education while traveling from this event in Lexington to Bowling Green for another school health event the following day!