I had the weekend to reflect on the EnergizeNWA Summit that took place last Thursday, and I remain in awe of the number and caliber of community leaders that came together to talk about creating a healthier region. At our best count, 210 leaders attended the summit-from mayors and city planners, to educators, health care professionals, funders, and key decision-makers from non-profits and area businesses. Thank you for a fun and productive day!
The goals of the day were to build excitement about what’s possible in terms of increasing access to physical activity and healthy eating opportunities for everyone in our region, and to begin to build a blueprint for how to achieve this vision. We’re proud to say we met these goals and we’re poised to work together as a community to change the landscape of regional programs, policies and infrastructure to create an environment that supports a healthy, active lifestyle.
At the summit, we heard from some visionary speakers that helped set the stage for the dynamic community conversations that would follow. Arkansas Surgeon General Joe Thompson began the day with and eye-opening account of the problem. “The obesity epidemic is robbing our health, our wealth and our productivity.” Dr. Thompson went on to poll the audience to ask how many folks rode their bikes to school when they were young versus how many of our children walk or ride their bikes to school today. The result was no surprise. Dr. Thompson encouraged us to get back to simple living, and to remember that the healthy choice can be easy if the infrastructure is there.
Tracy Fox, policy advisor to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and President of Food, Nutrition & Policy Consultants, shared some best practices from other communities, including a mobile market in Detroit, MI that accepts SNAP benefits and is bringing fresh produce into neighborhoods where there are no supermarkets or farmers’ markets. Tracy acknowledged that some of the change we want to create will take a long time, but there are some things we can do in the short-term as well. She also stressed that partnerships with non-traditional allies are key.
Dr. John Agwunobi, SVP and President of Health and Wellness with Walmart, closed out an exciting and visionary morning as our keynote speaker for the day. Dr. Agwunobi talked about Walmart’s efforts to help make its customers and associates healthier by offering nutritious options and educating people to make good choices. He encouraged us to listen to our kids–the anti-smoking movement gained the most traction when kids became advocates–and challenged us to work together and value the collective power within our own communities to innovate solutions.
Our speakers–along with an animated afternoon panel of experts that shared their own experiences in creating the kind of change we need–set the stage for some engaging break-out conversations about the resources, barriers and opportunities we need to understand and embrace to build a healthier, more active and more vibrant region. Endeavor is in the process of compiling and digesting the great feedback shared on Thursday, and we look forward to sharing the key findings and ideas that will guide our work together in the weeks, months and years ahead.
Thank you to our Presenting Sponsor (Walmart) and our Supporting Sponsors (P&G and Arvest) for making the EnergizeNWA Summit possible, and to all of you for making the day a huge community success! Now let’s roll up our sleeves and let the real work begin…