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Propelling the Movement for Change

By Jill Birnbaum on September 30th, 2015

Reflections from Voices for Healthy Kids

As advocates, each year we look with hope for new statistics that may show us more signs of progress in the obesity epidemic. Some good news came in the latest State of Obesity report—rates have remained stable among girls, regardless of race or ethnicity. Unfortunately, rates continued to increase among men and boys and Black and Mexican American women. The stark racial disparities are simply unacceptable—that 20.2% of Black, 22.4% of Latino and 14.3% of White children are obese. In Indian Country, the rates are even higher, with 31% obesity among 6- to 19-year olds. As public health advocates, this compels us to work even harder for policy change that levels the playing field for everyone to achieve ideal health.

We know there are several effective ways to approach the movement to reverse the obesity epidemic. The most effective public policies for improving nutrition and increasing physical activity are clearer now than ever before. Working across the nation in states and communities on a clear set of policy approaches will build momentum and refine our tactics. Aligning organizations’ strategies and messages that resonate with the public and with policy makers will equip more advocates and ensure the right messengers for each message.

So, how do we bring it all together and make it happen?

Your organization is working to pool resources with others, harness the momentum and make real community changes. Here at the American Heart Association, we are in it with you, and we are looking for game-changing campaigns to ensure more signs of progress in future reports. Our recent progress report on Voices for Healthy Kids showcases work that many of you were involved in.

During our first two years, Voices for Healthy Kids funded more than 50 coalitions working to open more grocery stores in low-income communities, unlock schoolyard gates so families could have a safe place to play, ensure sugary drinks were no longer served in childcare centers, and secure funding for sidewalks and bike paths in communities of need. We also provided guidance to more than 100 campaigns across 26 states and trained hundreds of advocates to use the tools and tactics that will help them run successful campaigns in the future. We are excited to have recently reached our 20th policy win. Twenty communities and states have, with help from Voices for Healthy Kids and our collaborators, made a significant step toward helping all children grow up at a healthy weight.

These policy changes have the potential for wide-reaching impact: the cities and states where they happened are home to 36 million people, more than 10 million of whom live in low-income communities or communities of color. But we know our work is far from done and that’s why I’d like to ask a favor of each of you. There are three ways to get involved so we can provide support to your work:

  • Tell your story. Run an online campaign. Take part in national online campaigns. All of this can be done as a Leader on our platform.
  • Looking for messaging tips? Need a Facebook ad? Want help writing an OpEd? Request a toolkit on your campaign priorities. We have eleven issue-based toolkits ready for you to use.
  • Fighting for a specific policy? Planning a long-term advocacy campaign? Need campaign dollars and technical assistance? Our funding is ongoing for advocacy campaigns and you can see all the requirements here.

Together, we are not just redesigning communities. We are redesigning a movement for lasting change in all communities. Thank you for letting us be part of your work.

Jill Birnbaum

Guest Author

Executive Director, Voices for Healthy Kids