A Week of Inspiration
Categories: Obesity prevention, Public Health, Wellness Centers
July 20, 2015 — By Cassidy Meehan
Imagine sitting in a room filled with over 1,500 like-minded individuals all working towards a common goal that you believe in with all your heart, mind, body, and soul. That is what the 8th Biennial Childhood Obesity Conference was like. Individuals from all over the United States came to San Diego June 29th – July 2nd to combat the issue of childhood obesity through a collective impact model of change. “Collective Impact: Developing a Shared Vision to Achieve Greater Success,” the conference theme, addressed the ways in which joint thinking, new relationships, and discussion can all lead to a change in influential factors that have led to this epidemic of childhood obesity and ways to stop the spread. I had the great opportunity of helping HEAL’s (Healthy Eating, Active Living) Program Manager, Deborah Ebrahemi, present our poster, “A Tale of Transformation: Hollywood High School’s Launch to a ‘Wellness Campus,’” which explains the development and accomplishments of the HEAL initiative.
The day came much quicker than I had originally expected, and the month of June flew by in preparation for presenting the poster at the conference. The day began at 8:00am and I’ve never seen so many people with smiles on their faces ready for the day that would be filled with inspiration, drive, excitement, and a desire to make the world a better place for the next generation. Speakers such as Vice Chair of the Clinton Foundation, Chelsea Clinton, Senator Tom Harkin, USDA Under Secretary Kevin Concannon, and President and Founder of Health Begins Rishi Manchanda stepped up to address the cohort of attendees and hit us with a dose of reality, new ways of thinking, and methods in which they have worked to change childhood obesity as we know it.
Discussing HEAL’s accomplishments with individuals at the conference was both inspiring and exciting. Hearing the accomplishments of what they have done in their own organization and giving them ideas based on how HEAL has impacted Hollywood High School were extremely beneficial. Many of the people I had the opportunity to speak with were impressed and motivated by what HEAL has done at Hollywood High in such a short amount of time and the subsequent steps being taken this year to expand on these ideas. Individuals were excited to bring these ideas back to their organization and create an action plan to combat issues within their own neighborhoods. Similarly, we too are excited about what we learned and new ideas to include in programs through HEAL.
Workshops ranging from addressing policy and environmental changes, the Smarter Lunchroom Movement, and the idea of a new warning label on sugary drinks all left our minds racing and our wheels turning of how we can continue to positively impact children through health. Having the chance to attend different workshops all targeting my passion, which is addressing school lunches and food served in school cafeterias, was truly encouraging. Seeing so many people actively working to change this in ways that make sense and gets the kids happy about the food they’re eating during the day is truly amazing. Kids deserve every opportunity to thrive in life and it is our responsibility to help them. I believe by addressing issues such as food and nutrition within schools, we can collectively make an impact on this epidemic and move towards a happier and healthier nation.
Already looking forward to the 9th Biennial Childhood Obesity Conference, I can’t wait to see the development of organizations and learn more from them. I can guarantee this is a conference that will continue to be on my calendar so that I can continue to learn, network, and positively impact our future generations.
Cassidy Meehan recently graduated from Cal State Northridge with her B.S. in Public Health. Her academic, professional, and personal interests all center around a holistic approach to childhood obesity, nutrition, and total wellness. Cassidy hopes to work in LAUSD Food Services Division to help promote and educate both healthy and delicious meals and combat food waste. This summer, Cassidy is interning with The L.A. Trust for Children’s Health working on the HEAL (Healthy Eating, Active Living) Initiative to support the replication of programming at other Wellness Center sites.