Team Orlando: Central Florida Leaders Join Obesity Summit

Eighteen Central Florida community leaders today joined another 400 representatives from around the country to look for answers to the nation’s obesity epidemic at the national Summit on Obesity today through June 4 in Williamsburg, Virginia.

The first comprehensive meeting of its kind, the Summit on Obesity is being hosted by TIME Magazine, along with ABC News, and it is being presented by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the largest philanthropy in the U.S. devoted exclusively to health and health care.

“This is an exciting opportunity for us to unite and connect locally and with others around the country to find answers to this critical problem,” said Patty Maddox, president of the Winter Park Health Foundation, which is helping coordinate the local effort with assistance from the Healthy Community Initiative in Orlando. “I have never felt such energy and enthusiasm toward collaboration and a common goal,” she said.

“We have a chance to make a significant difference in the health of the community and that of the nation,” she added.

Sydney Green, director-Center for Sustainability, Healthy Community Initiative, agreed, explaining that the conference came at the perfect time for her organization. Its recent “children and youth report” identifies obesity as a “prominent and important issue” to address when it comes to the well-being of children.

She said she is “thrilled” with the diverse sectors represented in Team Orlando. This is the first time they have all worked together on the issue.

“With all of these leaders present, we will be able to hit the ground running with the development of obesity-fighting activities back home,” said Ms. Maddox.

The local group of participants, nicknamed Team Orlando, represents the Winter Park Health Foundation, the Healthy Community Initiative, Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida, the Central Florida YMCA, Darden Restaurants/Foundation, the Donor’s Forum of Central Florida, Florida Hospital, Heart of Florida United Way, the Orange County Health Department, Orange County Public Schools, Orlando Magic Youth Foundation/RDV Sports, Orlando Regional Healthcare, Universal Orlando/Foundation and WFTV/Channel 9.

TIME magazine devoted its May 31 issue to the topic of obesity, noting that nearly one in three American adults is obese, and 15 percent of children ages 6 to 19 are overweight or obese. And the numbers are growing.

In addition, ABC News will report on obesity issues in a variety of newscasts. Also, Americans will be polled by ABC News and TIME Magazine about their attitudes, policy preferences and personal experiences related to obesity.

“Our participation is a natural extension of what is happening locally,” said Ms. Maddox. One of the Foundation’s primary goals is to make Central Florida the healthiest community in the nation, and this certainly includes helping citizens deal with obesity.

The Foundation already helps children on the issue through programs it funds through the Orange County Public School System. “Through our school-based health initiative we have been able to show improved health and academic outcomes,” Ms. Maddox said. “It has been a great partnership because we were looking for ways to improve health and schools were looking for ways to eliminate barriers to learning,” she added.

The Foundation funds Healthy School Teams at each of the schools in the Winter Park Consortium of Schools (Winter Park High and its elementary and middle feeder schools.) The teams come up with programs to improve health at individual schools. The Foundation also funded a major three-year grant at Brookshire Elementary School called Brain Smart/Health Wise which has had a significant impact on student health.

“Our participation in the Summit fits perfectly with what is underway in our community,” Ms. Maddox said.

“We’ll bring back what we learn, and hopefully expand our collaborative and develop an action plan for the community to use to tackle obesity,” she added.

For more information, contact:

Debbie Watson

Vice President

Winter Park Health Foundation

At the conference: mobile–407-252-9512

In Florida–407-644-2300

Sydney Green

Director-Center for Sustainability

Healthy Community Initiative

At the conference: mobile–407-256-7138

In Florida–407-649-6891