EnergizeNWA Summit Convenes Leaders to Innovate Solutions
Endeavor Foundation Announces $400,000 Commitment to Support EnergizeNWA
More than 180 Northwest Arkansas leaders gathered at a community summit in Rogers, Arkansas today to kick off EnergizeNWA, a regional effort to improve access to healthy food and physical activity initiated by Endeavor Foundation. Mayors, superintendents, regional planners, and executives of non-profits and businesses shared best practices, identified new opportunities, and discussed innovative ways the community can work together post-summit to improve the health of Northwest Arkansans.
“We envision a Northwest Arkansas where healthy, affordable food is available in every neighborhood, workplace and school,” said Anita Scism, President and CEO of Endeavor Foundation. “We see a region where bicycling and walking rival driving, and a place where it is easy to eat well and be physically active because our community supports a healthy lifestyle.”
To kick off the summit, Endeavor Foundation announced that it will award $400,000 in grants in 2013 to support community-led programs, policies and infrastructure solutions that promote healthy lifestyles for Northwest Arkansas residents. In addition, Endeavor is supporting three multi-stakeholder projects it has already identified as regional opportunities. The first project explores the need for a regional “safe routes to school” program. The second focuses on developing a regional plan to improve food access across Northwest Arkansas. The third project is producing a regional, interactive map that residents and visitors can use to map their own safe walking and bicycling routes as well as identify places to get healthy and be active. All of these priorities will be informed by input gathered at the summit.
Today’s speakers highlighted some of those recommendations, and helped participants visualize how participating leaders might work together to apply best practices to make a difference in Northwest Arkansas. Speakers included: Arkansas Surgeon General Joe Thompson; Robert Wood Johnson Foundation advisor and President of Food, Nutrition and Policy Consultants Tracy Fox; and Dr. John Agwunobi, Senior Vice President and President of Health and Wellness with Walmart.
"Endeavor is excited to bring together some of the most respected experts in the country so we can learn from them, and from each other, and discuss what is truly needed in our local community,” said Amy Stockton, Vice President of Programs and Community Partnerships with Endeavor Foundation. “EnergizeNWA has amazing potential, and after today’s summit ends, we're going to work quickly to assess what we've heard and reflect that back to the community. If we learn that people want more trails or joint use agreements to support after-hours use of recreational facilities, or that it’s important to have healthier drinks in community vending machines, we'll convene the right stakeholders to determine whether that’s possible and how to make it happen,” stated Stockton.
Two of today’s speakers, Thompson and Fox, actively led the development of the summary document, “Highlights of Key Local Strategies to Address Childhood Obesity”, which was published in 2009 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. This document identifies local policies and strategies that have been effective in enabling communities to reverse the obesity epidemic by providing an environment supportive of a healthy lifestyle. These recommendations have been endorsed by three leading health organizations (Leadership for Healthy Communities, the Institute of Medicine, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and are expected to help further guide the development of the EnergizeNWA initiative.
“Unless we improve the health of our citizens, we are facing a tsunami of medical treatment needs that we simply won’t be able to afford,” said Thompson, the state’s surgeon general. “We are fortunate here in Arkansas that policymakers and many others are willing to work together on effective solutions. Outside-the-box policies and changes in the way we design our communities are critical to making healthy lifestyles accessible. The only way to change behavior and improve health is to make the changes easy and part of