The Texas State Leadership Council for Obesity Prevention held its first meeting on Tuesday, December 9, in Austin. The newly formed Council serves as the expert advisory body to state volunteers and staff on state and local obesity prevention public advocacy issues. Council members, together forming a diverse group, have the motivation and expertise to help decrease obesity rates in Texas. They will actively participate in grassroots advocacy activities for the American Heart Association (AHA), such as contacting their legislators, providing public testimony at committee hearings, recruiting You’re the Cure advocates, and spreading the mission and message of the AHA.
December’s meeting featured several special guests. Stephanie Tama-Sweet, AHA Western Region Campaign Manager for Voices for Healthy Kids, outlined the goals and strengths of the Voices for Healthy Kids program, a joint initiative between the AHA and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to ensure that the places where children live, learn, and play make it easy and enjoyable for them to eat healthy foods and be active.
Dr. Deanna Hoelscher, Director of the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living at The University of Texas School of Public Health, shared the state of obesity in Texas, emphasizing the recent trends in obesity, diet, and physical activity in children as well as how factors such as ethnicity and area of residence affect the health of Texans. Dr. Hoelscher shared an urgent call to action.
Mike Meroney of Meroney Public Affairs bestowed his insight upon the council members in preparation for the upcoming Texas legislative session. Then, Savonne Caughey, Joel Romo, and Victoria Nelson of the Voices for Healthy Kids Texas Campaign team, along with Kaitlyn Murphy, Senior Government Relations Director, reviewed the AHA Texas public policy agenda and discussed how the Voices for Healthy Kids Campaign in Texas aims to improve grocery access and decrease childhood obesity rates.
Many thanks go out to the members of the State Leadership Council for their commitment and for attending December’s meeting. Council members in attendance included:
- Tania Boughton, Executive Director of the “Check the Light Before You Bite” program, in Dallas;
- Gracie Cavnar, Founder of Recipe for Success, in Houston;
- Kathy Green, Senior Director of Advocacy and Public Policy at the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas, in Austin;
- Gary Lindner, President and CEO of PeopleFund, in Austin;
- W. Teddy McDaniel, President and CEO of the Austin Area Urban League; and
- Dr. Stephen Pont, Medical Director for the Texas Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Childhood Obesity at Dell Children’s Medical Center, in Austin.
Also in attendance was Joy Casnovsky, State Advocacy Committee Liaison and Director of the Happy Kitchen/La Cocina Alegre at the Sustainable Food Center in Austin. Chris Green, Owner and Founder of Mean Green Training and Boot Camp in Houston, and Dr. Peter Murano, Associate Professor and Director of the Institute for Obesity Research and Program Evaluation at Texas A&M University, in College Station, are also members of the council. The State Leadership Council roster is still being filled, so additional members will be added soon!