But once again, some public health heroes are showing us how to tackle that problem. A Monday Annual Meeting session, "Institute of Medicine Obesity Prevention Tools for Policy-Makers and Researchers," highlighted two recent reports that can serve as guidebooks for the public health community: "Local Government Action to Prevent Childhood Obesity" and "Bridging The Evidence Gap In Obesity Prevention: A Framework to Inform Decision Making."
APHA Executive Board member Adewale Troutman reminded the audience at the packed session to take on obesity as well as other pressing public health needs using a health equity lens. He shared success stories from Louisville, Ky., that have brought fresh produce to convenience stores in the city’s poorest neighborhoods and given children a voice in shaping health policy.
He encouraged improved coordination among agencies and organizations whose activities address determinants of health in areas such as education, housing and planning.
“That’s obvious, but we don’t do enough of it,” Troutman said.
The local government report, which already has been used to garner grant money in communities — including Troutman’s Louisville district — lays out specific action steps such as attracting supermarkets and grocery stores to under-served neighborhoods to build “food oases” as opposed to food deserts.
And once again, session presenters stressed the need to reach out to some non-traditional partners. Consider Dallas, said Eduardo Sanchez, where the Dallas Regional Chamber, made up of a number of Fortune 500 companies, has said educating young people is a priority, that disparities and determinants of health drive inequities in graduation rates, and that childhood obesity is a factor in need of serious attention.
“At the local level, there is the opportunity, I believe, to have those conversations, and in some communities more than others,” Sanchez said. “What works in Louisville may not be what works in Dallas or what works in Brooklyn, but those of you who are in those communities understand the culture.”
Take a cue from the reports, he said, which have science-based strategies that work.
“You don’t have to go inventing things," he said. "You can follow a recipe.”