Earlier in March, members of the Community Commons team had the opportunity to travel to Washington DC to attend the Partnership for a Healthier America’s (PHA) Building a Healthier Future 2013 summit. With a large, growing list of sponsors and partnerships, over a thousand convened at the Grand Hyatt, Washington DC hoping to learn, advance public health and continue the fight against childhood obesity.
Though the summit was forced into a delayed start because of a ‘snowquester’ that ultimately skipped the DC area, all of the breakout sessions over the three-day event were packed full of attendees. A multitude of nonprofit officials, government representatives, and public health organizations were in attendance as well as many industry executives and private partners that have made commitments to PHA.
When PHA partners with companies like Wal-Mart, Bird’s Eye and Supervalu, it is more than monetary donations and press releases. Partners sign contracts agreeing to promote healthier products, improve workplace wellness and agree to be evaluated in a yearly progress report PHA releases. This year, several new partnerships were announced at the summit, including substantive investments and commitments from two of the nation’s prominent athletic companies.
Just a week after NIKE, Inc. announced it would invest $50 million over the next five years to help create active schools and communities in support of Let’s Move! Active Schools, competitor Reebok made a similar pledge of $30 million over the next three years. Kathleen Tullie, Executive Director of the BOKS program, a school based fitness initiative, stated “this is an issue that goes beyond the competition between brands.” Other partnerships announced included Varsity Brands, Morrison Healthcare Food Services, and the Mushroom Council.
This year’s Innovation Challenge showcased three finalists with unique products and designs including a fruit-infused water bottle, a game designed to promote healthy foods to kids and an incentive based platform to encourage physical activity in schools. A young and passionate group, this set of finalists were all under the age of 23. After a short video, a minute to address the audience and four minutes with the panel of judges at the beginning of the conference, everyone had the opportunity to vote for their favorite candidate. Check out the winning submission, JiveHealth, created by Dennis Ai:
Summit attendees got to watch Iron Chef Anne Burrell take on Iron Chef Jose Garces in a friendly face off at the Healthy School Lunch Challenge. Following a strict set of rules and partnered with school districts from New Castle, Del. and Houston, Tx. The two were tasked to come up with one entrée and two sides using specific ingredients and a budget equivalent to the average amount that the respective school districts have to spend on an individual meal. After being judged on originality, taste and appearance it was Chef Garces and his team who won. Fortunately for the audience, after the competition on stage everyone got to sample the dishes the chefs had prepared.
Social media took on a larger role in this year’s summit as participants were encouraged to follow @PHAnews on Twitter and use the hashtag #PHAsummit throughout the event. Some of the best tweets were highlighted and shown over projectors during parts of the summit. RWJF’s Childhood obesity team also conducted interviews during the summit and shared them via twitter.
The PHA summit concluded with inspiring words from Mayor of Newark, New Jersey, Cory Booker, who told the audience defeating childhood obesity is not just an important cause, but it is a great challenge our generation must defeat. Something we must do together, Booker said. Supporting Reebok and their newly announced partnership with PHA, Eli Manning, NFL quarterback with the New York Giants, called for action to make schools places where students both eat well and are physically active. However, it was the keynote address delivered by honorary PHA chair and First Lady Michelle Obama that captivated the audience stating, “slowly but surely, we’re beginning to turn the tide on childhood obesity in America.”
The first lady offered several ideas during her address, many of which revolved around parents and the choices they make for their children. “Kids aren’t the ones going to the supermarket or waking up early and making breakfast, at least not in my house,” Obama continued. “And they certainly don’t sign themselves up for ballet or basketball clinics at the Y. That’s our job. More than anything else, we as parents define what our kids eat and how active they are every single day.”