Laura Aiken is a community health specialist with WakeMed and the director for Advocates for Health in Action, a group of over 50 organizations working together to shape a community where healthful eating and physical activity is the way of life in Wake County.
Upon hearing Michelle Obama announce her new initiative to reverse the obesity epidemic within a generation through the Let’s Move Campaign, I could not help but feel proud of Wake County’s very own partnership, Advocates for Health in Action (AHA).
Like the First Lady, our goal is to ensure affordable access to healthful foods, work with school and parents to create a healthier school environment, increase the number of safe places for children to play, and to offer tools and resources to help our community make healthy choices. Through trainings such as the Brains and Bodies Workshops, we are providing parents with the tools they need to create healthier environments.
AHA recognizes the importance of understanding the needs of our community as it relates to access to food and places to be active. Using GIS technology, middle and high school students are evaluating access to physical activity and healthful food and working in their communities to advocate for healthier options. In Fuquay-Varina, young people recognized that the convenience store that serves as a popular student hangout near school didn’t have many healthy food options.
They began working with the store manager to make positive changes such as placing healthier snacks and drinks in a more prominent locations and is looking into the possibility of adding healthier items that students want. After this project made the front page of the News & Observer, an interested community member volunteered to create an iPhone app that will make it quick and easy for Wake County residents to determine what healthy food options are nearby. Similarly, the Let’s Move website features a Food Environment Atlas that provides the same type of information about our nation.
Working to reverse childhood obesity is not easy. At times it feels as if we are fighting the entire American culture! To see the work we have been doing is completely in line with plan launched by the White House provides motivation and validation to stay the course.
We applaud Michelle Obama for shining the spotlight on the issues we are passionate about in Wake County and we are excited to be a part of the change that will come from this movement.