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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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