Southern Leaders Gather to Fight Obesity

Terry LansdellThe Southern Obesity Summit came to Charlotte for its 6th annual gathering this weekend. The Southern Obesity Summit gathers people enlisted in the fight to prevent obesity from 16 southern states and is the largest regional obesity prevention event in the United States.  

It began with seed money from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and this year included policy makers, federal and state government officials and other leaders from four of the states in the Safe Routes To School Safe Routes Partnership state network project including Tennessee, Florida, Mississippi and, of course, the great state of North Carolina.  

We welcomed the Southern Obesity Summit to North Carolina this year with letters of support from our Governor Bev Purdue. The Summit recognized and featured some of the great work being done here with our Eat Smart Move More NC program, Youth Empowered Solutions, The Healthy Weight, Healthy Child initiative and Mecklenburg County Health Departments own Blue Print for a Healthier Generation. Having the Southern Obesity Summit here in Charlotte also featured the recent collaboration with Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina in the creation of North Carolina’s B-Cycle bike share program, which were used by many of the attendees while here.

While the list of topics and discussions are too many to list here, you can go to Southern Obesity Summit to find out more, review webinars and engage any of the attendees.  But, the most wonderful experience for many of us was the mayor’s panel. The panel included Charlotte’s Mayor Anthony Foxx, Nashville, Tennessee’s Mayor Karl Dean and Hernando, Mississippi Mayor Chip Johnson, who is the chair of our own Mississippi network.  All of these superstar mayors are charismatic leaders of larger cities in three critical Safe Routes Partnership states. All are dedicated to the fight to reduce obesity through developing active transportation facilities and programs, they voiced their commitments and shared successes in making a positive impact on the health and welfare of their communities while at the summit.

The take-aways from this incredible gathering? Partnerships matter, information sharing matters, best practices matter and policy matters in the effort to: create safe active living choices; provide policy support that creates more opportunities for healthy eating and to make community places open to everyone.  

Let’s keep the momentum rolling here in North Carolina by supporting policy makers in their efforts, participate in these programs and contribute to other efforts like WalkBikeNC and keep the focus on the Safe Routes Partnership’s work to make the first steps to and from school the safest.

See you next year at the 2013 Southern Obesity Summit in Nashville, Tennessee!