Dan Bennett is a Communications Director at UC San Diego Center
for Community Health and a San Diego native who has worked on
community-health projects for the past seven years, leading
communications and messaging efforts, and helping organizations
tell their story through focus on human impact, including
storytelling training for organization staff. Dan spent more than
20 years as a reporter for daily newspapers in San Diego, and has
also written freelance for the Los Angeles Times, Entertainment
Weekly and other regional and national publications, including
numerous health publications. Dan is the COI Media Domain
When did you know that you wanted to work in
I grew up in San Diego, and at an early age was reading daily
newspapers, watching television news and listening to radio news. I
was compelled by the process of sharing information - how it was
accomplished, and what it meant - and knew early on I
wanted to be a part of that sharing, through media. These days,
information is shared much differently, and anyone can do it. That
presents some challenges, but I continue to see that effective and
accurate information sharing is an important part of a vital and
How did you become involved in the COI?
In 2010, I started work for UC San Diego Center for Community
Health as communications manager for a CDC-funded project called
Communities Putting Prevention to Work, implemented by the County
of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency. The work connected
to the goals of the COI, and I began working with the COI as a
member of the Media Domain. I continued collaborating with COI on
media while I was communications manager for the County's Healthy
Works initiative, then stayed on the COI Media Domain when I
returned to UCSD, now serving as the domain co-chair while working
on REACH Chula Vista, a project advancing community-health
opportunities in western Chula Vista, and REACH Be There, a project
addressing heart-health and disparities in Southeast San Diego.
Why do you stay involved with the COI?
The goals of the projects I've worked on are similar in scope
and purpose to those of COI, particularly in our common pursuit of
policy, systems and environmental changes in San Diego County
communities. Because of health-inequity issues, not everyone has
access to healthy choices. The goals of COI, especially those
involving such community partners as schools, business, government
and more, are essential to healthy communities, and communicating
those goals through key messages and sharing of information is an
important part of the process.
What do you love about of your job?
Working with so many varied partners in San Diego County who all
share like-minded goals and have so many creative methods of
accomplishing those. I'm also excited about the new ways we share
information, such as social media and purposeful use of video to
tell stories. Storytelling - in this case the art of telling a
story through human and community impact - is essential to the
future of community health.
What are three words that describe you?
Listener, learner, communicator
What is your favorite place in San Diego?
I was born and grew up here and have seen the county change. I
can't name a favorite, so I'll name a few where I've spent
countless hours as a kid and an adult: Downtown, Balboa Park,
Belmont Park, Qualcomm Stadium, Oceanside Pier, Carlsbad beaches,
and my current South Park neighborhood.
What do you do for fun?
I coach Little League baseball. I also collect books with every
intention of reading them, but, you know, soon.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
Raising my two children, both now teenagers who have remained
reasonably normal. Ha.
What might someone be surprised to know about
I climbed a volcano in Nicaragua alone in a rainstorm, and I
can't parallel park even if someone is calmly giving me
Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RDN, FAAP is a
dual board-certified pediatrician and obesity medicine physician
and registered dietitian. She practices general pediatrics at
Children's Primary Care Medical Group where she also leads a
healthy weight clinic called the W.E.L.L. Clinic. In addition, she
is the Senior Advisor for Healthcare Solutions for the American
Council on Exercise and a member of the Executive Committee of the
American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Obesity. She is the
author of five books including the soon-to-be-released The Picky
Eater Project: 6 Weeks to Happier, Healthier Family Mealtimes,
authored with Sally Sampson of ChopChop Magazine and published by
the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Dr. Muth graduated from UCLA with majors in psychology and
physiological sciences with college honors, summa cum laude, and
Phi Beta Kappa. She earned a Master of Public Health in nutrition
at University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill completing her master
thesis on childhood obesity screening in schools based on her work
at the CDC's Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity. She
graduated from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine
where she was awarded the Davis Pediatric Student Scholar,
recognition given to the most promising medical student planning to
specialize in pediatrics. She completed her training in pediatrics
at UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital in the Community Health and
Advocacy Training track.
COI Private Sector Co-Chair
When did you know that you
wanted to become a physician?
As a college student I became extremely interested in human
health, nutrition, exercise, and the incredible privilege and
opportunity that medicine offers to be able to make a positive
impact on people's lives and health.
How did you become involved
in the COI?
I first learned about the COI several years ago. A cutting edge,
multi-sector initiative, its mission to optimize kids' health
through collaboration and community-level changes inspired me and I
couldn't wait to be involved. In 2012, I joined the healthcare and
media domains. In 2015 I was thrilled when the opportunity to serve
as co-chair opened up and that my medical group, Children's Primary
Care Medical Group, supported me in serving in this capacity. I'm
grateful to be involved with the COI and the exciting work of
helping the County of San Diego be the healthiest place to raise
kids by pushing an agenda to make the healthy choice the easy
Why do you stay involved with
The COI is a great model of collective impact and how working
together across domains can help to achieve our shared mission of
preventing and reducing childhood obesity and improving kids'
health. I am committed to helping all children have the opportunity
to eat healthfully, be active, and thrive. I think that the COI is
a powerful entity which helps us to make that ideal possible for
What do you love about of
My favorite part of being a pediatrician is getting to know the
kids and families that come to my office. I love watching them grow
and develop and I also like serving as kind of a coach for parents
who are on this most incredible adventure of parenting. I love that
as part of the COI I can advocate for changes that will positively
impact my patients in the communities where they live, learn, and
What are three words that
Passionate, Persistent, Caring
What is your favorite place
in San Diego?
Moonlight Beach in Encinitas
What do you do for
Hang out with my kids and husband doing anything active.
Travel. We especially love National Parks.
What is your proudest
I am most proud of my two kids. I love being their mom and all
of the fun (and challenges) that come along with that.
What are your three greatest
I am passionate about promoting (and practicing) health through
nutrition, physical activity, and healthful behavior changes in
fun, innovative, and (hopefully effective) ways. My mission is to
help create and support environments that make the healthy choice
the easy (and fun!) choice.
I am passionate about pursuing new adventures and experiences
with my family and learning new lessons from each of them along the
I am passionate about pediatrics and the incredible and
rewarding privilege it offers me to help kids (and their families)
What might someone be
surprised to know about you?
As a kid I really struggled to eat healthfully and be active and
was affected by childhood obesity. I had a few turning points, but
the most significant one was when my mom and I hiked down and out
of the Grand Canyon when I was a junior in high school. We weren't
sure if we could do it, but at the end of the day, we made it! It
was from that experience that I was convinced of the power of
prevention, especially physical activity and nutrition, to optimize
physical and mental health.
Did you know that more than 100 million Americans use
vending machines each day? As businesses, schools, and the
individuals throughout the nation deal with a chronic disease
epidemic, many are beginning to take their snacks seriously,
including those in vending machines.
In 2016, the top five consumer food trends are simple foods with
transparent labels, free for all foods (e.g., gluten-free,
wheat-free, etc.), vegetarian options or more animal-friendly
products, less processed foods, and products with vegetables
incorporated into the recipe. In an effort to make the healthy
choice the easy choice, and provide people more of the foods they
want, the County of San Diego Public Health Services, UC San Diego
School of Medicine, the American Heart Association, and the San
Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative hosted a healthy and
sustainable vending forum on Thursday, June 23, 2016.
The purpose of the event was to connect organizations to vendors
specializing in healthy, sustainable products; highlighted local
best practices; and identified ways organizations could formalize
healthy vending as part of their organizational culture through
The event included an all-start cast that inspired change.Aysha
Pamukcu, Staff Attorney for ChangeLab Solutions made the case that
healthy vending policies and nutrition standards can help reduce
the health and economic impacts of obesity-the cost of obesity
among full-time employees to employers is approximately $73.1
Naomi Billups, Public Health Nutrition Manager for the County of
San Diego, Health and Human Services Agency, and Fabian Cervantes,
Human Resources Generalist and Coordinator for Goodwill Industries
of San Diego County shared their personal experiences with changing
County and organizational policy in nutrition standards at the
local level. The County of San Diego revealed that it would soon be
updating its policy to go beyond health and promote sustainable
products with less packaging waste.
Afterwards, organizations that make this type of vending a
reality took to the podium. Representatives from Canteen, Grow, Healthy
On-The-Go Vending, and Daily
Harvest Market presented on their product lines and offered
samples to guests. Companies were able to provide a wide array of
healthier foods from refrigerated to shelf stable, and could even
provide organizations that housed the machines a share of the
If you weren't able to make this event and you want to be part of
the movement, don't fret. Resources such as policy examples, tools
on the creation of healthy and sustainable vending policies, and a
list of healthy vendors are available by contacting JuliAnna Arnett, Food Systems Specialist with
the County of San Diego, Health and Human Services Agency. To see
more photos from the event, click here.
With a background in education and planning, Cheri was always
passionate about supporting children and improving their lives. She
began her career at Rady Children's Hospital as a director of
Community Health (now the Center for Healthy Communities), and she
has been a member of the Rady Children's Hospital team for 28
years. The Center for Healthy Communities uses evidence based
practices derived from the community needs assessment, the
Children's Report Card and other sources to help promote healthy
living for children. Cheri's work involves an array of projects
including injury prevention, immunization, tobacco, oral health,
nutrition and healthy lifestyles and youth development. When Cheri
is not working to improve childhood health she is either practicing
yoga, spending time with family, refining her gardening and cooking
skills, or practicing holistic health.
How did you become involved with the San Diego County
Childhood Obesity Initiative?
I was involved with the COI before it began under the leadership
of supervisors Ron Roberts and Pam Slater Price. Rady Children's
saw the rise in childhood obesity early on and were ready to help
with obesity prevention. I have been involved in Leadership
Council, Action Plan Development, and Healthcare Domain since the
beginning of COI.
What do you love most about your job?
A lot of things. One of the most significant [aspects] is the
ability to do work that helps to benefit kids, which is my
strongest passion. I get to work with the most wonderful people who
share the same passion and desires, and test out creative
approaches to improving community health.
What is your favorite place in San Diego? What do you do
I love to walk and so my favorite place is along the coast and
Mission Trails. I like to walk from South Mission Bay to La Jolla,
and have even walked from Oceanside to Solana Beach.
Probably raising kids, and then creating and guiding the Center
for Healthier Communities. In 2003, I went back to school to become
a holistic health practitioner and try to integrate that profession
into the work I do at Rady Children's Hospital.
What are some of your strongest passions?
Family (including dog), work, and self-care (involving yoga and
Where are your favorite places to travel
Ireland countryside is beautiful. In the US, it's New
If you could describe yourself in three words what would
Energetic, mindful, and people-person.
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