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Partnership for a Healthier America Continues to Make Incremental Progress in the Fight Against Childhood Obesity

Published: 1/31/12

We had the privilege of attending the inaugural Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) Building a Healthier Future Summit in late 2011 in Washington, DC, where we heard First Lady Michelle Obama speak. Although this was a relatively small meeting, it was very exciting and we were encouraged to hear about the organization’s progress in the fight against childhood obesity. PHA, a nonpartisan organization started in partnership with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative against childhood obesity, is focused on reducing childhood obesity through collaborations with the private sector and other organizations (see diaTribe Dialogue in diaTribe #35 for our interview with PHA President and CEO Larry Soler and PHA Chairman Dr. James Gavin III). At the summit, new PHA-endorsed commitments were announced with a handful of companies and organizations, including Hyatt (to improve the nutritional content of its kid’s and full menus), Kaiser Permanente (to promote breastfeeding for its patients and employees), and the YMCA (to improve health and nutrition in its early childhood and after-school programs). While cynics might say several healthier items on a hotel menu isn’t nearly enough, we at diaTribe believe that any change in the right direction is better than none.

At the meeting, it became apparent that PHA is about taking incremental steps in the right direction here and now. The goal of the organization is not to address or discuss the larger policy issues that could reduce childhood obesity on a national scale (e.g., agricultural subsidies and school food nutrition standards); rather, the organizationPHA will focus its efforts on incrementally beneficial commitments – understandably so, since large policy changes seem unlikely in today’s gridlocked Washington. To close the conference, PHA Honorary Chair Michelle Obama emphasized that everyone, from individuals to large corporations, can play a role in the fight against childhood obesity, and that change will come from the bottom up. –VW

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