September, 30, 2013
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Summit Highlights Proven Strategies for Improving Public Health; Five Policy-makers Honored for their Exceptional Leadership

BALTIMORE—The nation’s most innovative policies for reducing childhood obesity were showcased at the 2013 Leadership for Healthy Communities Childhood Obesity Prevention Summit in Baltimore during Sept. 30 to Oct. 1. These highly successful policies to improve health and the local officials who championed them were honored by nearly 300 policy-makers and obesity prevention advocates. For more information:

After decades of steady increases, several cities, counties and states have seen noticeable improvements in childhood obesity rates, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that obesity among preschool children from low-income families declined in 18 states. The summit revealed how local and state initiatives have started to make progress in reducing childhood obesity by:

  • supporting policies that improve nutrition in schools by providing healthier meals and snacks;
  • creating more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly communities;
  • implementing shared-use agreements to provide more opportunities for residents to be active;
  • reducing unhealthy food marketing to kids;
  • developing public-private partnerships to promote healthier lifestyles; and
  • advancing policies to end health disparities.

Five policy-makers received the Leadership for Healthy Communities Award. The honorees were chosen because of their success in implementing innovative policy approaches to help prevent and reduce childhood obesity in their communities.

“All of these policy-makers have played a critical role in advancing policies to increase access to healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity,” said Maya Rockeymoore, Ph.D., director of Leadership for Healthy Communities. “Our hope is that highlighting their accomplishments will help inspire others to join in the national effort to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic.”

The Leadership for Healthy Communities Award honorees and descriptions of their achievements:

  • Mayor Chip Johnson of Hernando, Mississippi, has long been a champion of promoting policies that improve access to healthy foods and increase opportunities for physical activity in his community. His successes include establishing a new city parks department, creating more bicycle lanes and sidewalks, and helping start the Hernando Farmers’ Market—one of the most popular in the state. Comprehensive policy approaches to help children eat healthier and move more, like those being implemented in Hernando, have been linked to recent reports of declining childhood obesity rates in Mississippi.
  • Mayor Michael A. Nutter leads several major initiatives to increase the availability of healthy, affordable foods and promote healthy living in Philadelphia. He has made Philadelphia more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly by issuing a Complete Streets Executive Order that resulted in more than 20 miles of bicycle lanes and creating a bicycle and pedestrian plan for the entire city. Mayor Nutter also spearheaded “Get Healthy Philly,” a city-wide public health initiative to promote a healthy, active and smoke-free lifestyle.
  • State Delegate Joseline A. Peña-Melnyk has made childhood obesity prevention a priority since being elected in 2007 to represent Prince George’s and Anne Arundel Counties in the Maryland House of Delegates. Delegate Peña-Melnyk has been the lead sponsor and regular supporter of policies that increase access to healthier foods and create more opportunities for physical activity for residents across Maryland.
  • Superintendent John Skretta is dedicated to making sure that all students in the Norris School District in Firth, Nebraska, have the opportunity to be healthy during the school day and after-school. He helped establish a “grab and go” breakfast program in multiple schools and has instituted fitness testing in the district’s physical education curriculum. In just his fourth year as superintendent, the schools have already been widely recognized as leaders in providing opportunities for physical activity and for promoting healthier food and beverage options throughout the school day.
  • County Executive Kenneth S. Ulman has focused on increasing public safety, improving public education, and fostering a healthier and more vibrant community since taking office in 2006 as the Howard County Executive in Maryland. Ulman, along with former Howard County health officer Dr. Peter Beilenson, helped launch “Healthy Howard,” which is a community-based initiative aimed at improving the health of those who live, work, learn, and play in Howard County. The program brings together public and private partners to support healthy schools, restaurants, workplaces, and recreation and childcare facilities.


Leadership for Healthy Communities is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation designed to support local and state government leaders nationwide in their efforts to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic through public policies that promote active living, healthy eating and access to healthy foods. For more information, visit

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, measureable, and timely change. In 2007, the Foundation committed $500 million toward its goal of reversing the childhood obesity epidemic by 2015. This is the largest commitment any foundation has made to the issue. For more than 40 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter or Facebook.