by Terry Johnson
HEAL NH Director

First Lady Michelle Obama cited New Hampshire as a national leader in combating childhood obesity during a March 9 visit to the Penacook Community Center in Concord. "I am so very impressed and proud," Obama said, while addressing an audience gathered at the community center. "And I hope that other states look here for models of what can be done when people take a hold of a problem, come together and create solutions that make sense."

HEAL NH, which was recognized during the event, builds partnerships with funders, policy makers, advocates and community leaders to foster healthy people in healthy places throughout the state. Collectively these partners are making changes in neighborhoods, schools, childcare centers, health care practices and workplaces that are essential to supporting healthy choices and behaviors, preventing obesity and improving population health for people of all ages.

See how childhood obesity prevention work in New Hampshire is connected from national to neighborhood levels.

Obama, who brought her Let's Move! initiative to the state, spotlighted the Penacook Community Center as a successful neighborhood model and the Capital Area Wellness Coalition in Concord as a successful community coalition model. HEAL affiliated community coalitions are actively implementing healthy eating and active living strategies in six additional regions of the state. Successful community changes produced by these coalitions include:

  • Cheshire County HEAL engaged Keene restaurants to implement a healthy menu labeling program and the City of Keene adopted a Complete Streets resolution to design streets with all users in mind, including public transit users, pedestrians and bicyclists.
  • Greater Franklin HEAL institutionalized physical activity policies and practices into after school program sites and improved access to and user safety of the local trails system.
  • Upper Valley HEAL instituted the Nutrition and Physical Activity Assessment for Child Care program in multiple early child care centers and lead partner, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, enacted a policy to prohibit sugar-sweetened beverages from being sold anywhere on the Lebanon campus.
  • Lakes Region HEAL implemented daily physical activity practices in Laconia schools and integrated Body Mass Index screening and motivational interviewing procedures into multiple primary care physician practices.
  • Manchester HEAL engaged local residents in underserved neighborhoods to improve neighborhood walkability and access to healthy foods through a healthy corner stores initiative.
  • Step It Up Seacoast has joined forces with the Southern District YMCA to promote healthy living in the Exeter school district.

HEAL is stepping up its efforts to support coalitions working in communities with the largest health disparities and greatest potential for change. In May, four new municipally led coalitions will join the campaign through the HEAL Community Grant Program 2012.

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