This is the first in the series of Kayla’s blogs about the Partnership for a Healthier America Building a Healthy Future Summit 2016. For more of an inside look into the event, check out Noteworthy Commitments + Initiatives from the Partnership for a Healthier America.
The Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), founded in 2010, unites our nation’s public, private and nonprofit leaders focusing on a shared mission to Make the Healthy Choice the Easy Choice. While the organization was created to end the childhood obesity epidemic, where it has made tremendous strides, the Partnership has a much larger impact on the health of all Americans.
The Building a Healthy Future 2016 Summit was a celebration of all of the progress that has been made. Consumers are demanding transparency and healthier options, suppliers and R+D teams are reformulating products, schools are providing healthier foods and supporting physical activity, community gardens are trending and you can find fresh food at your local convenient store. A healthy lifestyle has become synonymous with quality of life.
While there is much to celebrate, the fight to end obesity has only just begun and the amount of work that remains was acknowledged throughout the event. Today, one in three American children are still overweight or obese and the numbers are even higher in African American and Hispanic communities, where nearly 40% of children are overweight or obese. This disparity appearing in lower-income communities presents the need for continued efforts to expand the fight.
As we navigate the current state of this complex issue space, data shows how linked health-related needs are to disadvantaged communities. Dr. Camara Phyllis Jones, President of the American Public Health Association, gave an eye-opening keynote on addressing health disparities for in-need populations including quality of care, access to care and differences in life opportunities. She encouraged participants to include every population in the effort towards building a healthier future because it is not just the individual that suffers from obesity, but the vibrancy of our communities and our economy as well.
Vice Admiral Vivek H. Murthy, Surgeon General of the United States, also spoke powerfully around changing the environments in which we live in order to support the health of our communities. Even small changes, like more walkable sidewalks, are helping to improve the health and quality of life for local residents. From a broader perspective, Murthy discussed the additional need to address and increase the dialogue around emotional wellbeing and mental health. With stress levels rising in our country, there are limited resources to deal with these pressures in healthy ways. While researchers’ lifetimes are spent producing treatments, he noted, they will never be effective if the mental state of the patient isn’t addressed. Ultimately, Murthy’s message was that we have a responsibility for each other and although there is a strong strain of individualism in our country, he reinforced how great things are only accomplished when we work together.
All of the enthusiasm throughout the event naturally led to the summit’s headlining keynote and leader of the healthy future movement, First Lady Michelle Obama. She celebrated the fact that millions of kids across the country are embracing healthy changes in their lives, acknowledged the incredible progress that has been made by the individuals in the room and unveiled the new FDA food nutrition label. She was clear that up to this point in the health movement, we have only laid the ground work. In the spirit of working together, she promised that although she’ll be leaving the White House in November, she will continue to be a partner in ending the obesity epidemic. “Our biggest obstacle is our own compliance,” she concluded, “and this is our chance to mold the future.”
These highlight keynotes were coupled with insightful panels and exciting announcements that brought positivity the momentum for the movement. Leaving the summit, I was hopeful that we are building a healthy future and this will one day be another achievement that was accomplished together.