Last May I attended the 2016 Partnership for a Healthier America Summit, in Washington, D.C. The theme for the summit was “Making the Healthy Choice the Easy Choice.” Each year the PHA Summit brings together representatives from corporations, non-profits, academia, government agencies and the private sector to discuss solutions to ensure every child grows up at a healthy weight. Although childhood obesity was the summit’s featured topic, making healthy choices easier for Americans of all ages was addressed throughout the summit.
As an attendee representing the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic’s Weight Management Dietetic Practice Group, I was impressed by the alignment of private and public sectors and the collaboration between them on this topic. This was my first conference with business leaders and policy makers together; and listening to CEOs, presidents, and executive leaders of major corporations discussing their companies’ preventive approaches to childhood obesity gave me unique insight that I will use in my private practice.
During a motivational opening address, Dr. James Gavin, the chairman of PHA’s board of directors, challenged the audience and PHA partners to keep an open dialogue with consumer businesses and continue challenging their influence.
The most compelling portion of Day 1 of the conference was the “Living with Obesity” panel, led by Ted Kyle of ConscienHealth. Two of the panelists shared their emotional struggles with obesity, weight bias and communicated the need for aggressive policies to address the obesity epidemic in America. Hearing them helped drive home the true meaning of the PHA Summit and its potential to influence America’s health.
Audience engagement was a key aspect of the PHA Summit that I enjoyed. On social channels “#PHASummit” was trending both days of the conference, and not only showed powerful thought influence regarding the topics, but helped all attendees connect with each other. Video boards showing tweets kept everyone engaged with speakers and helped stimulate active conversation. Many of the speakers and panelists even responded to tweets and comments throughout the summit. Even if I couldn’t make it to every discussion, I was able to get involved on social media.
Len Greer, President of Health and Wellness Solutions at Johnson & Johnson, communicated his company’s vision for addressing the health of our youngest Americans and outlined the three things needed for sustained behavior modification: motivation, ability and opportunity.
U.S. Surgeon General Vice Admiral Dr. Vivek Murthy gave an emotional and personal account of his journey as the country’s top medical expert. His focus on addressing childhood obesity is one of prevention, saying: “I’m convinced that if we really want to safeguard the health of our nation, we have to create a culture of prevention in America.”
The biggest star of the summit, Keynote Speaker and the First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama, announced the newly redesigned nutrition label with an easier-to-read format and new information regarding added sugar. The First Lady challenged industry leaders and all PHA partners to “not just focus on profit margins but on how products affect our kids’ health.” She also asked each one of us to stay with her on this journey of raising a healthier generation – even after she leaves the White House.
It’s always a motivating experience to attend health-oriented conferences, and the PHA Summit was no different. While childhood obesity is an incredibly difficult, and often depressing, topic of discussion, my experience from this year’s PHA Summit gives me hope that with public and private sectors working together, this epidemic may one day be history. ~Be well, Dr. A.