Contact: Julia Christopher
Partners HealthCare

BOSTON, MA – Community and legislative leaders heard directly from young people about the importance of healthy living as part of an effort to address the epidemic of childhood obesity at an educational forum at the Massachusetts State House this morning.

Chloe, 11 from Charlestown, changed her eating habits after learning from her doctor that her weight had reached an unhealthy range. “When I’m eating well and exercising it makes you feel good,” Chloe says. “You only get one body and you have to be responsible of your body.”
The event marked the premiere of the new DVD Words Can Work: Kids and Healthy Lifestyles. Words Can Work creator, Jeanne Blake, seen in the photo below, said, Jeanne Blake addressing the crowd“We identified a key, missing element in the national dialogue about childhood obesity: helping families talk about factors that contribute to the epidemic. This film shows parents and other caring adults in kids lives how to begin these valuable conversations.”

In the video clips, three young people describe how talking about physical activity, nutrition and healthy weight with a parent or other caring adult resulted in healthier lifestyles. Following a screening of the film, clinical and policy experts answered questions from an audience of more than 300 educators, young people, and health care providers.
Dr. Gottlieb addressing the crowd“We are so grateful to all who shared their stories of how they were able to work through difficult healthy living issues, and to begin making healthier choices,” said Gary L. Gottlieb, MD, President and CEO, Partners HealthCare, seen in the photo to the left. “This is an issue that affects all of us and will take all of us, working together, to solve. Through the hospitals, the health centers and our community partners, we are deepening our commitment to the communities we serve and helping young people and their families live healthier lives in healthier neighborhoods.”

The forum, presented by Partners HealthCare, in collaboration with Words Can Work, was co-sponsored by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. The forum was co-hosted by Massachusetts State Senator Richard T. Moore, Representative Steven M. Walsh, and Representative Jeffrey Sánchez.

“Obesity is one of the most pressing public health issue of our time,” said Lauren Smith, MD, MPH, Medical Director, of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. “Through our statewide measurement of body mass index in schools, we know that over 30 percent of our school children are overweight or obese.  This is true even for children in grade 1. It is imperative that we couple strategies like those discussed today with policy and environmental changes at the community level to help young people and their families make healthier choices. We have to do this to keep the next generation’s lifespan from being cut short by preventable and costly chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and even some types of cancer.”

Public health experts and the Massachusetts Legislature worked long and hard to pass the School Nutrition Bill, and after years of advocacy, it was signed into law last year. “Through this law, we are providing a new tool to educators and health and wellness leaders in schools across the Commonwealth,” said Senator Richard T. Moore, Chair, Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “Providing more than a million children each day with nutritious options to eat in schools will help to prevent costly diseases like diabetes, and enable young people to live healthier lives.”
The Department of Public Health and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education are currently implementing the standards of the state’s new school nutrition bill which will have an impact on approximately one million school children in the Commonwealth. “We are aiming to ensure that all children in Massachusetts’ public schools are provided healthy foods and beverages that will enhance learning, contribute to their healthy growth and development, and cultivate lifelong healthy behaviors,” said Kate Millett, Executive Director of the Office of Nutrition, Health, and Safety programs at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Chair, Joint Committee on Health Care Financing, Steven M. Walsh said, “Healthy living education has the potential to provide future health care cost savings. Educating young people about how their overall health will benefit from physical activity, good nutrition, and healthy weight will help them to lead healthier and more productive lives, and push back against preventable diseases like diabetes and heart disease.”
House Chair Joint Committee on Public Health Jeffrey Sánchez said, “The Massachusetts Legislature is committed to providing children in the Commonwealth with tools that enhance their learning and help them to make healthy choices. The School Nutrition Bill is a significant step in that direction and we continue to work to ensure the healthiest choices are available to all of our young people.”
Panelists at today’s forum included Melissa Dimond, ScM, Chelsea HealthCare Center, Massachusetts General Hospital; Barbara Ferrer, PhD, Executive Director, Boston Public Health Commission; Bruce Masek, PhD, Clinical Director, Outpatient Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Service, Massachusetts General Hospital; Kate Millett, Administrator, Nutrition, Health and Safety, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education; Julie Redfern, RD, Manager, Nutrition Consult Services, Brigham & Women's Hospital; Jennifer Rosenblum, MD, Weight Management Program, Director, MassGeneral Hospital for Children at Newton-Wellesley Hospital; Lauren Smith, MD, Medical Director, Massachusetts Department of Public Health; Lindsay Shaw, EdM, EdD, Sparking Life; and Jean Wiecha, PhD, Director, GoKids Boston Research, Training and Outreach Center, UMass Boston.

Words Can Work® was created by Jeanne Blake, president and founder of Blake Works Inc. and Family Health Productions. Blake Works produces and distributes multimedia, about the public and mental health challenges kids face growing up. Its advisors are researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other leading institutions including Harvard Medical School, where Blake is an affiliated faculty member with the Division on Addictions, and McLean Hospital, Harvard's largest psychiatric facility, where Blake serves as a trustee.

Partners HealthCare is an integrated health system founded by Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital.  In addition to its two academic medical centers, the Partners system includes community and specialty hospitals, community health centers, a physician network, home health and long-term care services, and other health-related entities. Partners is one of the leading biomedical research organizations and a principal teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School.  Partners HealthCare is a non-profit organization.

Partners Community Health leads the organization-wide commitment to improve the health and well being of low-income and vulnerable populations. Our commitment to the community is the largest of any health care provider in Massachusetts, representing over 80 programs benefiting more than 115,000 residents. Partners Community Health works closely with Partners hospitals, 21 licensed and affiliated community health centers serving 350,000 patients, and local organizations to enhance health care access for patients, increase economic opportunity, and improve the health of communities through prevention initiatives and addressing longstanding health disparities.