Partnership for a Healthier America’s 2016 Building a Healthier Future Summit

May 18-20, 2016; Washington, DC; Day #1 Highlights – Draft

Executive Highlights

Hello from the Nation’s Capital, where Partnership for a Healthier America’s (PHA) Building a Healthier Future Summit 2016 kicked off this morning. Over 1,000 attendees munched on freshly made whole-wheat pancakes from the expo and kicked off their heels for fitness-instructor-led “physical activity breaks” in between presentations. Leaders from the public health, nonprofit, business, medicine, and government sectors reflected on the progress achieved by PHA partners thus far, introduced exciting new opportunities, and advocated for work still to be done. See below for our top seven highlights from the day. Want a crystal ball peek into the future? Check out our preview for tomorrow’s star-studded morning with appearances from FLOTUS Michelle Obama, US Senator Mr. Cory Booker (D-NJ), and US Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy! PHA has also released its 2015 Annual Progress Report, with updates on the commitments from partners. We are hard at work reviewing this expansive report and will be back to you soon with our thoughts.  

Top Seven Highlights

1. Dr. Camara Jones (President, American Public Health Association, Washington, DC) delivered a compelling keynote presentation on recognizing and dismantling racism to achieve health equity.

2. In a moving panel, Dr. Scott Kahan (Director, National Center for Weight and Wellness, George Washington University, DC), Ms. Patricia Nece (US Department of Labor, Washington, DC), and Ms. Kesha Calicutt (Waning Women, Dallas, TX) shared their experiences living with obesity.

3. In a breakout session moderated by Ms. Deb Eschmeyer (Executive Director, Let’s Move! and Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition Policy, White House, Washington, DC), panelists discussed the regulatory and advisory changes that have been implemented throughout the Obama administration to improve the health and wellness of children and families.

4. PHA CEO Mr. Larry Soler led a fascinating afternoon panel discussion that explored the initiation, implementation, and completion of PHA commitments through the eyes of three of its partners: North Carolina State University Chancellor Dr. Randy Woodson, Bright Horizons’ Senior VP of Education Dr. Susan Brenner, and Sodexo CEO of Schools Mr. Stephen Dunmore.

5. PHA announced 24 (!) new partnerships across several initiatives, growing its total number of partners to more than 200.

6. The highly respected Ms. Camille Lee (VP of Diabetes and Obesity Marketing, Novo Nordisk, Plainsboro, NJ) highlighted Novo Nordisk’s efforts to address the root causes of diabetes and obesity in the US and around the world.

7. J&J President of Health and Wellness Solutions Mr. Len Greer discussed J&J’s significant investment in the health and wellness of its 125,000 global employees and its ambition to be the healthiest company in the world.

Top Seven Highlights

1. Dr. Camara Jones (President, American Public Health Association, Washington, DC) delivered the keynote presentation on recognizing and dismantling racism to achieve health equity. She described three factors that give rise to disparities in health: (i) differences in the quality of care received within the healthcare system, (ii) differences in access to care, and (iii) differences in life opportunities, exposures, and stressors that result in disparities in underlying health status. She framed these health disparities using the cliff analogy (a framework developed by Dr. Jones and now a commonly-used tool for public health discussions), describing a population standing at the edge of a cliff. If a person falls off the cliff and is whisked away in an ambulance, they are engaging in tertiary healthcare. A net halfway down the cliff may be able to catch some patients before they need an ambulance, representing secondary care, while a fence at the top could prevent people from falling off the cliff altogether, representing primary care. She observed that many organizations involved with PHA or in attendance at the summit are focused on addressing the social determinants of health, or moving people away from the edge of the cliff altogether. She emphasized, however, that simply addressing the social determinants of health without considering racial or ethnic disparities can lead to only improving the health of a portion of the population and may actually exacerbate health disparities. Notably, she highlighted the importance of considering the cliff as three-dimensional and mindfully distributing resources equitably among populations to work towards addressing the social determinants of equity. Dr. Jones’ presentation was a sobering reminder of the need to ensure that health promotion programs promote the health of the whole population. While PHA has undeniably made significant progress in its years of existence, there is still much work to be done to achieve health equity for all populations, especially as we consistently see higher burdens of obesity and type 2 diabetes in black and Hispanic populations compared to white populations.

  • Dr. Jones suggested that the root cause of health disparities is structural racism, defined as a system of structuring opportunity and assigning value based on the social interpretation of one’s looks. She emphasized that it is our responsibility to “put racism on the agenda” and launch a public campaign questioning how racism might be at play behind various disparities. She acknowledged that it is often difficult for those with some degree of privilege to recognize and discuss these issues, but called for action from those who have been made aware of their existence. Structural racism within healthcare and public health is often not acknowledged by health professionals – and within medical school curriculums – and Dr. Jones’ keynote on the topic served as a welcome sign that these issues must be more formally addressed.

2. In a moving panel, Dr. Scott Kahan (Director, National Center for Weight and Wellness, George Washington University, DC), Ms. Patricia Nece (US Department of Labor, Washington, DC), and Ms. Kesha Calicutt (Waning Women, Dallas, TX) shared their experiences living with obesity. Ms. Nece spoke of the bullying and judgment she has faced since childhood not only from her peers but also from institutions and healthcare providers. She described numerous diets she tried over the years and the spiral of shame she felt with every failure. She emphasized that it was only when she began working with obesity specialist Dr. Kahan in a nonjudgmental atmosphere that she was able to accomplish significant and sustainable weight loss. For his part, Dr. Kahan described his struggles with childhood obesity and his feelings of not knowing what to do or where to turn to for help. As a result, he views his role as a physician focused on obesity as a resource to help people not feel so alone in the fight against obesity, and to know that they have a place to turn for help. Ms. Calicutt provided an interesting perspective of somebody who did not experience obesity until adulthood and then underwent metabolic surgery. She emphasized that navigating the world post-surgery is entirely different from navigating the world as an individual with obesity – she compared the difference to going to sleep black and waking up white the next morning – and stressed that we need to be cognizant of the fact that obesity has both physical and emotional impacts. Similarly emphasizing the emotional aspect of obesity, Ms. Nece underscored the need for support from all corners of healthcare when considering and treating obesity. It is rare that we are given the opportunity to hear from patients living with obesity themselves. We applaud PHA’s move to put patients at the front and center of the summit and allow them to share their stories, reminding attendees of the ultimate goal at the heart of PHA.

3. In a breakout session moderated by Ms. Deb Eschmeyer (Executive Director, Let’s Move! and Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition Policy, White House, Washington, DC), panelists discussed the regulatory and advisory changes that have been implemented throughout the Obama administration to improve the health and wellness of children and families.

  • Ms. Angie Tagtow (Executive Director, USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, Alexandria, VA) highlighted the recent update to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines help shape numerous federal food and nutrition policy programs, including Meals on Wheels, Head Start, WIC, and the Healthy Base Initiative. The USDA also translated the guidelines into the public-facing MyPlate campaign to guide consumers in making healthy decisions for everyday life.
  • Dr. Susan Mayne (Director, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, FDA, Silver Spring, MD) discussed the proposed changes for the Nutrition Facts label. She suggested that the addition of percent daily value for added sugars, the more prominent placement of calorie and serving size information, and the updated serving sizes that better reflect current consumer intake will help individuals make more educated decisions regarding their food choices. She did not provide timing for when this policy change would be passed. Dr. Mayne also mentioned a handful of other initiatives from the FDA. These included menu and vending machine calorie labeling (which will be required within the next 12 months), voluntary draft guidance on reducing sodium levels in packaged foods, and the removal of partially hydrogenated oils from the food supply by 2018 (which the CDC estimates will lower the risk of death by heart attack and coronary heart disease). We hope that these initiatives will move the food industry to reformulate their products, making it easier for the consumer to make the healthy choice the easy choice.
  • Finally, Dr. Kate Wilson (USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Nutrition and Consumer Services) highlighted changes in schools since the 2010 passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Examples of changes include teaching children appropriate portion sizes and the components of a complete meal, and requiring nutritional standards for snack foods and beverages sold in schools. This policy hopes to create healthy environments within schools and to teach children life-long skills related to choosing healthy food options, an initiative we can certainly get behind. The USDA has also implemented professional standards for nutritional managers in schools, requiring annual training and education. We’re shocked that these standards did not previously exist. While these many policy changes are certainly a move in the right direction, it’s important that the public put pressure on regulatory agencies to keep up the momentum in order to achieve a successful reduction in childhood obesity.

4. PHA CEO Mr. Larry Soler led a fascinating afternoon panel discussion that explored the initiation, implementation, and completion of PHA commitments through the eyes of three of its partners: North Carolina State University Chancellor Dr. Randy Woodson, Bright Horizons’ Senior VP of Education Dr. Susan Brenner, and Sodexo CEO of Schools Mr. Stephen Dunmore. Dr. Brenner emphasized that while Bright Horizons had been moving toward implementing healthier policies in its early childhood education centers prior to partnering with PHA, its public commitments helped catalyze the organization’s transformation by providing greater accountability. Dr. Woodson noted that NC State had also been moving toward healthier campus initiatives prior to its PHA commitment, but that PHA helped the university better document its progress. For both Bright Horizons and NC State, the PHA partnerships further reinforced the organizations’ brand and aided in marketing. In fact, Dr. Woodson shared that applications to NC State rose 27% last year, which he attributed in part to the university’s emphasis on its health and wellness initiatives when presenting itself to high school seniors and prospective students. Sodexo was similarly able to turn its PHA commitments into profits for its business by introducing a “mindful” food offering that has seen a 250% increase in sales and a reduction of more than 13.5 million calories over the past few years. This represents a win-win situation in our view – by making the healthier choice the easier choice for consumers, Sodexo was ultimately able to make the healthier option the more profitable option. Sodexo’s results demonstrate that it is possible to align health promotion with economic incentives; we urge other companies to take note of their model and move towards increasing access to healthy food options in the public sphere.

  • Despite the successes, the organizations acknowledged that the process is not without its challenges. Dr. Brenner noted that bureaucratic barriers were frequent and that Bright Horizons faced many unexpected challenges attempting to implement its PHA commitments. That said, each of the three companies emphasized the importance of having a champion for PHA who was able to galvanize entire organizations behind the principles of the commitments, instilling pride in every employee for his or her involvement in building a healthier future for America. These stories underscore that shifts toward health promotion are often a team effort, involving many stakeholders within an organization rallying behind a leader and a cause.

5. PHA announced 24 (!) new partnerships across several initiatives, growing its total number of partners to more than 200. The new partners included food manufacturers and distributors, convenience stores, universities, affordable housing organizations, start-ups, and more. See below for an overview of the many, many exciting new opportunities PHA is engaged in.

  • Food manufacturer MARS Food US committed to improving the nutritional value of products in its Uncle Ben’s and Seeds of Change brands, and to including healthier recipes on the packaging for its products such as the addition of more vegetables and lean meats.
  • Food distributors McLane Company and Esstar committed to help stock convenience stores with affordable, healthier options.
  • Convenience store chain Enmarket committed to stocking nutritious options in its stores.
  • The Westin hotel chain committed to developing a healthier kids’ menu in all of its hotels (this is fantastic – Westin is already very wellness-friendly).
  • Cambridge, MA-based affordable housing organization Homeowner’s Rehab committed to incorporating Active Design Verified strategies into 80% of all its new units over the next five years. Active Design Verified standards call for purposeful design to encourage healthier lifestyles through access to physical activity spaces, wider sidewalks, walking routes, centrally-located and appealing stairwells, and bike-friendly infrastructure.
  • The Outdoor Industry Association and Outdoor Foundation committed to providing opportunities for at least 100,000 children to engage with the outdoors during the National Park Service’s centennial year.
  • Gaming company Blue Goji committed to partnering with UC Berkeley to bring its gameified exercise accessories (controllers, virtual reality headsets, and games meant to be used with cardio equipment such as elliptical machines and stationary bikes) to children in underserved communities in Richmond, CA; Oakland, CA; and Flint, MI.
  • PHA’s Healthier Campus Initiative added six new schools to its partnership: Grand Valley State University, Fort Lewis College, University of Houston, SUNY Cortland, Emporia State University, and Liberty University. This brings the total number of universities in the initiative up to 44. Impressively, PHA concurrently announced that North Carolina State University has achieved all 23 of its commitments a full two years ahead of schedule.
  • PHA announced the addition of 11 partners to the FNV Campaign to build promotional and marketing strategies for fruits and vegetables comparable to those of the biggest brands in the food industry. The partners include Lamar Advertising, Whistle Sports, Ocean Spray Craisins, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, Trinity Health System, University of Wisconsin SNAP Ed, Enmark Stations, McLane Company, Green City Growers, Hidden Valley, and Uncle Ben’s.

6. Ms. Camille Lee (VP of Diabetes and Obesity Marketing, Novo Nordisk, Plainsboro, NJ) highlighted Novo Nordisk’s efforts to address the root causes of diabetes and obesity in the US and around the world. She discussed Novo Nordisk’s deep commitment to changing the course of diabetes and obesity at all stages by reducing the number of people who are diagnosed with diabetes, improving access to treatment for those with diabetes, and creating treatments that can help people with diabetes live with as few limitations as possible. She expressed admiration for PHA’s model of convening public, private, and government leaders to combat childhood obesity, noting that “both health crises are so complex that no singular company can meet them on its own.” Ms. Lee highlighted similar efforts to bring together key stakeholders that Novo Nordisk has collaborated with to combat diabetes and obesity. At the domestic level, she highlighted the Community Health Collaborative, a partnership launched in 2014 that provides grants to community organizations to expand healthy lifestyle programming and reduce type 2 diabetes among youth in Trenton, NJ. On a global scale, Ms. Lee showcased Novo Nordisk’s expansive Cities Changing Diabetes initiative (see our report for their recent summit in Denmark), emphasizing that the program hopes to (i) conduct research and develop insights into the causes of urban diabetes and (ii) translate the findings into innovative solutions. With Cities Changing Diabetes, Novo Nordisk hopes to engage businesses, city leaders and planners, healthcare professionals, academics, and community leaders toward a common goal of understanding and reducing urban diabetes. Cities Changing Diabetes and PHA are certainly built on similar principles, and we wonder what the two (Novo Nordisk and PHA) can do to learn more from each other.

7. J&J President of Health and Wellness Solutions Mr. Len Greer shared his ambition to make J&J, with its 120,000 global employees, the healthiest company in the world. Mr. Greer framed health and wellness as a multi-faceted balance between healthy eating, physical activity, adequate sleep, stress management, and seeking healthcare when needed. He highlighted J&J’s Human Performance Institute that helps employees maximize and optimize their energy management through lifestyle modification. Mr. Greer acknowledged that the corporate world has a culture of trying to squeeze more hours out of the day by sacrificing sleep, and suggested that the Human Performance Institute offers an excellent alternative: increase overall energy so that you can do more with the time that you have. We appreciate J&J’s innovative approach to framing productivity and its emphasis on health as a basis for greater professional and personal success and satisfaction. This is especially important in today’s increasingly busy world in which healthy lifestyle behaviors are so easy to sacrifice in the short-term. Putting words into action, J&J sponsored a “physical activity break” during the plenary session highlighting its 7 Minute Workout (complete with a mobile app!)

 

--by Helen Gao, Sarah Odeh, Emily Regier, and Kelly Close