2016 Archives

SMU hosts conference to improve children’s health

‘Tipping The Scales For Children’ to combat childhood obesity in Dallas County

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Tipping the Scales conference

KERA Public Radio Discussion

KERA's Think addressed creating healthy environments for children with SMU Professor Rita Kirk, director of the Maguire Ethics Center; Douglas Hawthorne, founding CEO of Texas Health Resources; and Peter Roberts, president of population health at Children’s Medical Center. Listen to the discussion. audio icon

May 4, 2016

DALLAS (SMU) – The Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility at SMU and The Cooper Institute brought together 400 leaders from the public, private and nonprofit sectors to tackle the pressing ethical issue of children’s health in Dallas County at a May 3 conference.

“Tipping the Scales for Children: From Ethics to Action to Wellbeing” addressed the health disparities of children living in Dallas County, ranging from the 48 percent childhood obesity rate to cultural and policy influences affecting childhood health and wellbeing. Designed to set specific, achievable goals to improve the health of Dallas County children, the conference was held at the George W. Bush Presidential Institute, located on SMU’s campus.

Featured speakers included Dan Buettner, author of the New York Times Best-seller “Blue Zones;” General William Fraser III, USAF (Ret), an advocate for healthy children to preserve military readiness; Michael Minor, an undershepherd of Oak Hill Baptist Church who is known as the “Mississippi pastor who banned fried chicken in his church;” and Shellie Pfohl, executive director of The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.

“We have a moral responsibility to ensure the health and fitness of the children of our city,” said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, co-founder of the Dallas Mayor’s Youth Fitness Initiative (MyFi) and a planned speaker at the event. “Poor health can contribute to so many other problems, including struggles in school and health complications later in life. That’s why I’m so thrilled to be a part of this gathering of leaders who are ready to engage on this important issue."

“Yes, we are meeting to build community awareness,” said Maguire Center Director Rita Kirk. “But, we hope to inspire a movement to make Dallas the healthiest city in Texas.”

True systemic change rarely happens in silos, said Candy Crespo, Maguire Center associate director “The purpose of the day is to leverage the skill set, expertise and determination of our community leaders – from all sectors – to make sustainable changes for the city, “

The numbers are in for how Dallas is currently faring in the fight against obesity, and they depict a losing battle.

Forty-eight percent of Dallas County children are overweight or obese. Only one in three children are physically activite each day. Dallas ranks among the worst-offenders in the nation in income inequality by neighborhood and in food insecurity, with 19.2 percent of residents considered food insecure.

The data also suggests a relationship between children’s health and national security.

"As a retired general, I am alarmed that 73 percent of young Texans cannot serve in the military, and obesity is the leading medical reason,” says Fraser, who is on the executive advisory council for Mission: Readiness, a non-profit organization that promotes children’s’ health as important to the goal of supporting qualified men and women for military service. “We must 'tip the scales' toward healthier eating and exercise from an early age to ensure our future national security."

Tipping the Scales for Children is presented in partnership with The Cooper Institute, the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition and the Dallas-Forth Worth Hospital Council. It is sponsored by The Dallas Morning News, KERA, the Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility, Lyda Hill, Texas Health Resources, Children’s Health System and The Cooper Institute.

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