Childhood obesity is a national epidemic, affecting 1/3 of all children in the United States. Recently, I was given the opportunity to interview Amy Moyer, the director of field operations for Action for Healthy Kids. I was able to ask her about childhood obesity and what we can do to help eliminate the problem.
Action for Healthy Kids is a non-profit organization that helps our children’s schools become healthier places. In April, they released a new report, The Learning Connection: What You Need to Know to Ensure Your Kids Are Healthy and Ready to Learn to help explain the childhood obesity epidemic and how we can correct it.
If you haven’t read Part 1 of my interview with Amy Moyer, click here.
What resources are available to help parents encourage schools to offer these and other healthy programs?
In addition to the Parents for Healthy Kids resources listed above (ed. note: these are in Part 1), all parents should read The Learning Connection: What You Need to Know to Ensure Your Kids are Healthy and Ready to Learn . Once you read it, you’ll better understand the issue and how you can help. More importantly, you can take this tool into the school to begin a discussion between school staff and parents.
Why did you become involved in this initiative?
I’ve been an athlete most of my life, but I’ve also struggled with my weight since high school. (What can I say? I love to eat too!) A college roommate encouraged me to pursue nutrition and exercise science after she noticed I knew the amount of calories in about every food we ate. Needless to say, I quickly learned nutrition is much more than counting calories; and I fell in love with the science behind nutrition and exercise physiology.
Additionally, I come from a long line of teachers and coaches, so have it in my blood to work with kids. Thus, through AFHK, I found a way to combine my passion for nutrition and physical activity and working with kids in schools.
What excites me most about this work isn’t the individual behavior change where we see kids eating more fruit or having a great time on the playground. It’s the work that’s behind that where we’re changing our environment and culture. I hope to see a day when more kids can walk/bike to school again; where fresh produce stands exist on street corners, instead of hot dogs; where healthy foods are prevalent at sporting events; and active trails encourage active families. Creating a healthy community will create healthy families, and that excites me most.
What do you see for the future of Action for Healthy Kids?
Over the years, Action for Healthy Kids has evolved from targeting public health professionals in our work against childhood obesity in schools to working more closely with parents. Now, we want more parents…thousands of them! Parents have such power and such voices for change, especially in their homes and school community. There’s no stronger advocate for a child’s health than his/her parent.
Parents are the future for Action for Healthy Kids. We need an army to tackle childhood obesity. We need an army to change our community environments and cultures. We need parents to take charge of the health of their families and work toward change. The health – and future – of our children depend on it.
What do you think are the causes of childhood obesity?
There are many causes for childhood obesity. At the core, it starts with consuming more calories than you burn, but it goes way beyond that. Families can no longer walk to work, to school, the store, the post office, to the park. Schedules and budgets are so tight, and it’s so easy to grab the fast food on almost every corner. Our environment isn’t conducive to health right now.
However, slowly, but surely, we can change that…we HAVE to change that. We can take old railroad tracks to create active trails. We can use empty lots to build community gardens. We can add recess and physical education back into the school day. We can take healthy foods to neighborhood pitch-ins. We can create community zoning plans that limit unhealthy food options and given incentives to healthy food corner stores. We can unplug and get active. We all have a role to play and it’s essential we do our part to create healthy communities.
Interview with Amy Moyer, M.P.H., R.D., Director of Field Operations, Action for Healthy Kids, mother of two and PTO Financial Secretary