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AHA improves the health and well-being of Wake County residents by facilitating and supporting community initiatives.

Perspectives: May 2013

Sheree Vodicka, AHA Director

Sheree Vodicka, AHA Director

My first post to you, our friends, volunteers, members and partners, was roughly one year ago in May after I joined Advocates for Health in Action as Director.

I was looking back at that post, in which I described my trip to Washington, DC, to the Weight of the Nation (WON) Conference. It’s funny to me that just last week we screened HBO’s The Weight of the Nation film with a small but engaged audience at the Cary Arts Center in honor of Fit Cary Month with our partner Town of Cary Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resources. That film was introduced to the WON conference attendees this time last year as a way to get people together and talking about the problem of obesity and the ways we can work together to combat it.

One of the segments of the film we showed was about Nashville, TN – a city that received funding from the Centers for Disease Control at the same time that North Carolina was awarded a large grant under the same program – Communities Putting Prevention to Work.

What impresses me most about Nashville’s approach is how it capitalized on the assets that the community has, rather than its problems. Their campaign, called NashVitality is probably one of the best I’ve seen centered on making a community healthy, active and green – and a desirable place to live and do business.

Real community members serve as spokespersons to describe how community gardens, mobile veggie markets and walk-able, bike-able communities are transforming people’s opportunity to do what they WANT TO DO ANYWAY – lead a healthy, active lifestyle.

It’s so easy to assume that people want to eat junk food and watch TV all the time. It’s not until you begin to make the environment safer and more enjoyable for getting outside and getting active that you see people voluntarily take to the streets for exercise and social interaction.

Same thing goes for healthy food. If more fresh, healthy food is available, visible and attractively displayed, people are inclined to choose to eat that fresh, healthy, colorful food rather than brown, unappetizing food.

It’s all in how you spin it, really. I hope that Wake County will continue to look at its assets with AHA’s help – and find ways to make our community VITAL and ALIVE with inviting environments and food options for our citizens.

As many of you know, my last day with AHA is fast approaching – May 24th. I am moving on to a role where I will be working at the state level on these very same issues.

But I will be close by – and in contact, because we know all policy is local. And if we are to drive state level policy change, much of that will bubble up from local activity. And that’s what AHA is best at – bringing together partners with the will and the means to make great policy changes happen so we can bring lessons learned to scale.

I will be seeing you around, in other words. So we won’t say “goodbye” – only farewell until we meet again.



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