Alabama Obesity Task Force holds quarterly meeting

Published 3:26 pm Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Alabama Obesity Task Force held its quarterly meeting Wednesday at the Alabama Power Water Course building in Clanton to raise awareness of its efforts to reduce and prevent obesity in Alabama.

The most recent nationwide survey released in July ranked Alabama first for diabetes, second for obesity and third for hypertension. A third of Alabama residents are classified as obese, and two-thirds are overweight.

“It (the survey) gives me motivation for us to move forward with the work we’re doing,” said Heather Whitley, Alabama Obesity Task Force chairwoman.

The task force is a volunteer-led group, which partners with organizations and individuals throughout the state to improve such unhealthy statistics.

At the meeting, speakers shared their programs, plans and ideas for decreasing the growing problem of child and adult obesity.

Michael Jackson, a member of the advocacy committee, focused his presentation on advocacy efforts and grant opportunities.

“Advocacy is one of the more mundane things we talk about, but it’s one of these necessary evils that we have to pay attention to,” Jackson said.

According to Jackson, Americans are facing an “onslaught of decisions” regarding government spending on programs not necessarily tied to nutrition.

“I believe we’re at a point (where) we need to agree upon initiatives and policies as a state group,” Jackson said.  “Without knowing what we are for or against, we’re going to get caught flat-footed.”

Jackson spoke of individuals serving as resources for their communities and promoting simple changes with potentially permanent impacts.

For example, as a city expands its roadways, bike paths could be installed, Jackson said.

“We’re not out to challenge the system,” he said. “What we have to do is get ahead of the curve.”

Polly McClure, statewide coordinator at Reach Out and Read-Alabama, presented an overview of the national coalition, Reach Out and Read, and her efforts with the Alabama chapter.

The program helps incorporate literacy into pediatric healthcare by encouraging parents to begin reading with their children at early ages.

“You’d be amazed how many children have no printed word in the house,” McClure said.

Molly Killman, a member of the youth and family committee, spoke about a program called “Let’s Move Salad Bars to School.” This program allows schools to apply to receive free salad bars.

Fresh produce and fresh perspectives were not the only ingredients in the task force’s approach to trimming Alabama’s waistline, however.

Verna Gates, communication committee chairwoman, spearheaded a project to create an official logo for the task force.

“We need to have a logo,” Gates said, as she described each design option and encouraged guests to submit their votes via paper ballots provided at the meeting.

The new logo will brand all of the task force’s future campaigns and advertisements.

The task force’s next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 16 in Birmingham.