Elected Officials’ Breakfast: A Discussion about Safe Routes to School

Fenton pic

On September 19, the San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative's Government Domain hosted an educational and interactive forum that brought together community members, planners, government officials, and school board members to discuss safe routes to school. The event featured Mark Fenton, a nationally recognized public health, transportation, and planning consultant, as the event's keynote speaker, and was followed by a panel discussion with local experts including Graham Mitchell with the City of Lemon Grove, Michelle Lieberman with Safe Routes to School National Partnership, and Brian Gaze with Circulate San Diego.

Fenton began the event by asking the audience to close their eyes and think back to their earliest memories of being physically active. The room burst into commotion as participants fondly shared their childhood memories such as playing with children of all ages and staying outside until the street lights went on, which meant it was time to go home for dinner. When Fenton asked how many participants thought it was good that most kids were no longer free to explore outdoors, not a single person raised their hand. The stage was now set to discuss complete streets, active transportation, and safe routes to school.

Fenton provided an overview of how a number cities and neighborhoods throughout the country were developed during a time of suburban sprawl; many of these areas lack sidewalks and have an excess of parking lots. He then discussed how current trends show that younger generations prefer to live in walkable communities, and how even builders and the Realtor's Association are taking note. If cities plan to be attractive and sustainable, it will be necessary for them to adopt complete street designs that consider drivers and pedestrians of various ages and abilities, and active transportation, which includes human-powered modes of transport such as biking and walking.

During the panel discussion, Mitchell shared how the city and school district are working together in Lemon Grove to strengthen their joint use agreement, which allows district owned land to be open to the community, when not in use by the school. The other panelists provided resources, as well as local and national examples of policies cities and school districts are enacting to encourage active living and safe routes to school. The panel was followed by a lively question and answer session, during which audience members were able to explore their own unique challenges and walk away with resources to improve their community.

World Breastfeeding Week August 1-7

World Breastfeeding

The first week in August each year, advocates from over 175 countries come together in celebration of World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) to "promote, protect, and support breastfeeding." WBW first began 22 years ago and although breastfeeding rates are increasing around the world, there is still room for improvement. Based on the Center for Disease Control's (CDC)  2013 Breastfeeding Report Card, California is one of the top three states with the highest rates of mothers who initiate breastfeeding, at 91.6%. However, as the months progress, the rates decrease to 71.3% at six months and 45.3% at 12 months. The CDC has concluded that a child's risk for obesity decreases each month he or she is breastfed; children who are breastfed for nine months have a 30% decreased risk.

Since breastfeeding can be challenging, maintaining high breastfeeding rates can only be accomplished by a collaborative multipronged approach. Women need support and encouragement from their obstetricians, hospitals, pediatricians, families, friends, communities, local businesses, and workplaces. The San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative promotes breastfeeding as the healthiest first food for children and encourages all partners to support breastfeeding through policy and environmental changes. In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, here are some ways communities can  support breastfeeding:

  • Hospitals can join Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas, and University of California San Diego Medical Center in receiving a "Baby-Friendly" designation through the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children's Fund. Baby Friendly Hospitals provide support for exclusive breastfeeding, train staff on supporting breastfeeding, and refuse to provide formula samples or coupons.
  • Businesses can display "Breastfeeding Welcomed Here" stickers on windows and doors and train employees on their breastfeeding policies.
  • Employers can update lactation accommodation policies to include model language and practices.
  • Early childcare providers can accept and properly store expressed breast milk and coordinate children's feeding schedules with the mother's schedule.
  • The media can promote benefits of breastfeeding to counteract infant formula marketing and advertisements.
  • Communities can provide clean, comfortable places for mothers to breastfeed.
  • Policymakers can increase funding for high qualify research on breastfeeding.

Outlining the Next Four Years: Updating the Call to Action, San Diego County Childhood Obesity Action Plan

2010 Action Plan Cover photo

It's Thursday afternoon, and the San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative's (COI) Action Plan Advisory Committee is meeting in CHIP's small conference room, working strategically to update the Call to Action, San Diego County Childhood Obesity Action Plan (Action Plan). Eleven partners representing HHSA, UC San Diego Center for Community Health, California Project LEAN, American Red Cross WIC, and Community Health Improvement Partners (CHIP) have been meeting monthly since May to revise the Action Plan.

The first Action Plan was developed in 2006 to raise awareness of childhood obesity and to provide recommended strategies for creating healthier communities. The document was revised in 2010 and will continue to be updated every four to five years. This year we are excited about the new format, which includes selection criteria for strategies; information on collective impact; a description of the COI accountability plan; and a glossary of terms. Another update that we are eager to share is the new Action Plan template, which will more clearly define how community members can impact childhood obesity through policies, systems, and environmental changes.

Once completed, the Action Plan will be available in April 2015, and will be used by domain work groups in selecting domain strategies and developing domain workplans. The Action Plan will be available in both English and Spanish, and will also be available on our website at http://www.ourcommunityourkids.org/.


Katie Judd: Empowering residents to be agents of change

Katie Judd


From a young age, Katie Judd lived an active lifestyle. She was born and raised in Bonita, and recalls walking to school and horseback riding as a child. She attended college at Portland State on a volleyball scholarship, but didn't see herself being an athlete for life. She pictured herself completing a degree in health sciences and working at a nonprofit, but those plans unexpectedly changed.

What happened that turned her on to public health? Katie completed an internship with the County of San Diego's Aging and Independence Services (AIS), and was introduced to the field of public health. As a result, Katie transferred to Chico State where she finished her degree, but she didn't want to stop there. She attended graduate school at National University where she focused her studies on public administration. She was intrigued by her classes on the topics of built environment, planning, and land use.

How did she transition from AIS to working with children? Katie began working in the field at AIS San Diego County and then transitioned to become a Community Health Promotion Specialist in the East Region. She co-chaired the Coalition on Children & Weight San Diego (CCWSD) and became involved as the COI's Community Domain co-chair after the merger. Katie was fascinated by the seven domains, and continues her involvement because she recognizes that the COI is a growing force in the San Diego community.

Her favorite COI domain project is the policy, systems, environmental change (PSE)/community engagement mapping project, which will help streamline efforts around community advocacy and garner more interest in these projects. The maps help identify activities happening at the neighborhood level in which community members are actively engaged to create healthier community environments.

Katie is currently the Health Promotion Specialist for the County of San Diego's Health and Human Services Agency in East Region and says the best part of her job is empowering community residents to be their own advocates and supporting the change they want to see in the neighborhoods.

When Katie isn't working with residents to improve their neighborhoods, she enjoys hiking, and frequents Torrey Pines on the weekend, because "there's nothing like being able to see the ocean and mountains with snow topped peaks from one lookout point." When she's not out at beach or spending time with her family in San Diego County, she enjoys antique shopping, garage sales, and home decorating.

Six Smart Ways to Dethrone King Cola


December 4, 2013

The good news: Over the last seven years, consumption of sugary drinks declined among California children aged 2-11. Public health campaigns like "5210," changes in the WIC food package, and healthy beverage policies on school campuses seem to be working.

The bad news: More teens are guzzling the sweet stuff. As documented in the recent statewide report Still Bubbling Over, more than 6 in 10 California children aged 12-17 drink one or more sugar-sweetened beverage each day, and the rates are even higher for African-American and Latino teens.

Even though the rates in San Diego County are slightly lower than the state average, fully 40% of all children in San Diego County consume one or more sugar-sweetened beverage each day. We have important work left to do.

How can we make the healthy choice the easy choice? The San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative has spent the last several months shepherding six of its best ideas into action.

1. Make it a priority.

Writing down your goals creates a sense of common purpose and urgency to deliver. This year, the San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative (COI) made the reduction of access to and consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages an overarching strategy across the entire collaborative. As a result, every one of the COI's seven sector-based workgroups, or "domains," has initiated projects to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages in their respective sectors. The domain projects are specific, measurable, attainable, and promise real results. Check out a few of the workplans on our domain webpages. Over time, the COI will track how these mutually-reinforcing projects are impacting consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages across San Diego County.

2. Educate your network.

Knowledge is power. On September 26th, the COI Community Domain, in collaboration with San Diego Nutrition and Physical Activity Collaborative, hosted a public forum to educate local organizations and community residents about the health effects of sugary drinks and help them brainstorm ways to reduce consumption through policy, systems, and environmental change. More than 60 attendees heard presentations from local partners, including Rady Children's Hospital and San Diego Hunger Coalition, and regional and national groups, such as California Center for Public Health Advocacy, Berkeley Media Studies Group, and Center for Science in the Public Interest. In all, 92% of attendees rated the forum's quality as "excellent" or "very good." Attendees generated specific goals to pursue within their own organizations and recorded their commitments on postcards. In late November, the COI mailed back these postcards and will soon post online key resources to help attendees keep their commitments.

3. Define "healthy."

So, which drinks are healthy? The Nutrition in Healthcare Leadership Team, a subcommittee of the COI Healthcare Domain made up of leaders from 22 hospitals and health systems, reviewed beverage guidelines from local, regional, and national organizations and adopted a shared definition for healthy beverages now available online. The group also placed beverages in "red, yellow, or green" categories using a traffic light model, which had already proven effective in the Rethink Your Drink campaign at Rady Children's Hospital (find resources from their campaign at the bottom of the Healthcare Domain page).

4. Team up with schools.

So much about the school environment is decided outside the classroom. Policies that affect school breakfast and lunch, recess, access to drinking water - even fundraisers and class parties - are determined by a district's school board, advised by a wellness lead and, in some cases, a wellness council convened by the district. By connecting and educating members of these wellness committees and people who can influence districts' wellness leads, the COI is making schools healthy beverage champions. In October, the COI Schools & After-School Domain hosted a forum of its District Representatives - liaisons between the COI and districts' wellness leads - to educate them on the new USDA Smart Snacks in Schools rule and how to perpetuate a healthy beverage culture by writing it into districts' policies. (Great examples are available from the Schools & After-School section of the COI Policy Clearinghouse.)

The domain is also empowering parents, teachers, nurses, and public health professionals to educate each other, get organized, and take action. Several organizations have partnered to adapt one evidence-based session of California Project LEAN's parent engagement training to focus on sugar-sweetened beverages. On December 6th, the COI held its first train-the-trainer session, "Engaging Parents in Promoting Healthy Beverages in School," for a group of 18 attendees representing schools, clinics, public health agencies, food banks, and community-based non-profits. The trainees will fan out across the county to deliver to their peers and parent groups one-hour presentations on how to reduce consumption of sugary drinks in schools through policy, systems, and environmental change.

5. Let healthcare leaders lead.

Who better to model healthy drink consumption than doctors and nurses? On November 9th, the Nutrition in Healthcare Leadership Team collaborated with PAC/LAC, American Academy of Pediatrics, and Health Care Without Harm to conduct San Diego County's first ever Food Matters training for physicians, nurses, public health workers, food service professionals, and students. This training educated attendees on the health consequences of the industrial food system and lifted up local hospitals and health systems doing outstanding work to bring local, sustainable, healthy food and beverages into the healthcare setting. According to the event evaluations, 100% of attendees felt the training was "very successful" or "successful" at meeting the objective of preparing attendees to "implement interdisciplinary strategies to model healthy eating in [the] workplace," including campaigns to promote healthy beverages. (Find Food Matters presentations here.)

6. Talk in dollars and cents.

Businesses are key stakeholders in the sugary drink economy. On December 9th, the COI Leadership Council heard from nationally-recognized public health leader Dr. Harold Goldstein of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy (of "Kick the Can" fame) on mobilizing for-profit organizations to promote healthy drinks. Based on ideas generated at this meeting, the COI will formulate a concrete plan for engaging area businesses in activities that are good for their bottom lines and good for health.

Have you been doing great work to promote healthy beverages? Tell us about it, and you might find your organization's success story in a future newsletter!

Kate McDevitt Sees Schools as Public Health Frontiers

November 26, 2013

Classrooms are versatile spaces. In small desks flanked by bulletin boards, students build academic knowledge, make friends, and develop a sense of citizenship. But schools can do even more than that. Kate McDevitt knows classrooms are also ideal places for teaching young people how to be healthy.

Kate spent most of her childhood in Annapolis, MD, where her father, an orthopedic surgeon at the United States Naval Academy, taught her early on to value health and physical activity. After earning a degree in Human Service Systems from Bucknell University, Kate took a position in Washington, D.C., as a global events coordinator for Chief Executives Organization. As part of her job planning international networking events for a membership of CEOs, Kate worked with some of the world's most accomplished chefs and developed a great appreciation for the culinary movement.

Kate then moved to San Diego, where she served as the assistant director of United Through Reading Military Program. She also served on the Board of Directors of Slow Food Urban San Diego for four years, helping to promote local food systems. It was through her work with Slow Food that she realized her professional interest in advocating for farmers and better understanding local food production. Kate went back to school, earning a certificate in ecological horticulture from UC Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems.

Returning to San Diego, Kate settled into her current job as at UC San Diego, School of Medicine, which combined her unique interests in promoting education, health, and local food systems at schools in underserved communities. In this role, Kate brings the UCSD Pediatrics School Wellness Programs to classrooms across the county - and in Spring 2013 became the Principal Recipient of the UC San Diego Exemplary Employee of the Year. Kate speaks reverently of the public educators in her network: "Our teachers really embrace their role in changing and bettering their students. Their commitment to their students' health is incredible." She also recognizes the unique role schools can play as safe community spaces: "Families and community members understand schools to be places where anything is possible. Issues that could sometimes be hard are easier when they are discussed in schools."

While undertaking this work, Kate has been a valued partner in the San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative. In addition to participating in the Schools & After-School Domain, Kate has been instrumental in formalizing the District Representatives- a group made up of public health and non-profit professionals, parents, and others who serve as liaisons between the COI and school districts' wellness committees - and getting its members the training they need to make a positive impact on schools' student wellness policies. She also participates on the Farm to School Taskforce and recently encouraged the group to adopt a common San Diego County Harvest of the Month calendar, which will allow local farmers to predict and plant the fruits and vegetables that San Diego County schools will demand in 2014. Of the Schools & After-School Domain, Kate said she participates because it is "one of the best collaborations for connecting the dots amongst school efforts countywide."

When she's not at work, Kate is "a cooking fanatic and a sucker for the San Diego restaurant scene." She admits, "I don't like to cook anything twice." She was recently invited to serve on the Board of Directors of Les Dames D'Escoffier, a worldwide philanthropic society of professional women leaders in the fields of food and hospitality. When asked to recall a favorite meal, she described a memorable trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, where she had the opportunity to "meet local chefs, develop an appreciation for the rich history of food in Mexico, and try some incredible mole."

Kate knows better than most people the potential impact of a meaningful culinary experience and has committed her career to building the next generation of thoughtful eaters and healthy adults.

Kate McDevitt is Senior Manager of School Wellness Programs at UCSD Pediatrics, Division of Child Development and Community Health and a voluntary partner on the COI Schools & After-School Domain, District Representatives group, and San Diego County Farm to School Taskforce.

COI Launches Story Feed

November 22, 2013

What is the COI? Who are its partners? How does this program impact my community? How could I get involved?

Every month, dozens of local residents and organizations from across the country contact the San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative to ask these questions. Now, we're dishing up answers. The COI is proud to launch this online news feed, "COI Stories," which will host our e-newsletter stories, timely updates, and profiles of ourstanding partners as they're written - fresh off the press.

As always, archived versions of the newsletter will also be availble in PDF format  here.

We look forward to reaching new people and posting engaging content through this new medium. For questions or comments, please contact the editor by email. And don't forget to fan us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to our monthly e-news!

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