From the music studios of Los Angeles to the health centers of rural North Carolina, a broad range of government officials, private activists, doctors and even an Olympic athlete described what is working in the effort to reverse what has been called the greatest health crisis facing American children.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter spoke of changing what is on the shelves of hundreds of corner stores to give people healthier choices and a media blitz to urge kids to stop drinking so many sugary beverages. Jackie Sergent, mayor of tiny Oxford, N.C., described a local competition that offers prizes to teams of people who each lose 10 pounds in 10 weeks. In five years, 4,500 participants have lost 18,000 pounds.
Hunter Willis, a 17-year-old from Manhattan, shared his story of being an unhappy teenager who reached 275 pounds, then losing 100 pounds through a program of better eating and more exercise. “Burn more than you’re eating,” he said. “It’s that simple.”
Corporate America is starting to pay attention. Wal-Mart executive James Bailey III described how his chain of stores — the nation’s largest grocer — has vastly reduced the amount of sodium and sugar in thousands of products it sells.
Sam Kass, executive director of the White House’s “Let’s Move!” program, says we need to put marketing muscle behind healthy choices. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent marketing products to Americans and he said that it’s time more of the marketing power was directed toward water, fruits and vegetables.
The message of the virtues of exercise and healthier eating is getting a boost from some of the celebrities of hip-hop culture, including Grammy Award-winning producer Quincy Jones III. His remarks, like those of the other speakers at the summit, are excerpted in this special report. Although there is still a way to go to stem the health crisis, as Jones said, it’s a good sign when rappers are spreading the word among kids that “health is the new wealth.”
— Mary Jordan
Editor, Washington Post Life