A Meeting of the Minds: We Can!® Strategy Workshops Chart the Future
Posted June 14‚ 2010
Now, more than ever, the importance of children's health and the seriousness of childhood overweight and obesity are being echoed from coast to coast. To ensure that the program is meeting the need of community sites and partners, We Can! recently hosted two strategy workshops, where partners, community sites, and supporters of the program discussed past, present, and future We Can! activities.
The first Expanding the Impact Together workshop was held February 22 in Washington, DC. At this meeting, attendees shared their experiences with the program and with childhood overweight issues in general, drawing upon their expertise to offer recommendations on how to maximize the program's successes; fulfill specific needs; and move forward in a way that is consistent with the environmental and policy changes that are taking place around the country.
"We've been running a We Can! program at one of our clinics in Columbia Heights, a mile from here, for the last two years,” said Jessica Wallace We Can! community site leader at the Cardozo Clinic, and Physician Assistant with Unity Healthcare, Inc. "We have 20 to 40 family participants every week… We've had some great outcomes and great successes, and we've now expanded to Southeast DC, moving from a mainly Latino immigrant population to a primarily African American population."
Wallace and her We Can! programming actually caught First Lady Michelle Obama's eye back in summer 2009, and a group from the clinic was invited to the White House to talk more about We Can!. The First Lady's Let's Move! initiative incorporates many We Can! materials, and her office was represented at the workshop by Shale Wong, M.D., M.S.P.H., a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellow.
Sharing lessons learned at both the national and local levels kept the conversation flowing and the enthusiasm high throughout the day. One discussion was devoted to exploring the current environment and how sites and partners are using We Can! materials and resources to support environmental policy change in their locations. Other topics explored included strengths of the program; We Can! resource needs; opportunities to enhance the program; program partnerships; and the types of assets, skills, and leveraging that are needed to sustain and expand its overall impact.
Cam Tu Vu, a youth program coordinator for the Vietnamese group Boat People SOS, has been running Media-Smart Youth® and S.M.A.R.T. curricula for a diverse community in Northern Virginia. Like others, she was enthusiastic about brainstorming solutions with other We Can! leaders, supporters, and experts on childhood weight management.
"I always feel so excited to get input from people from the outside, said Tu Vu. "I always think that really helps us, so I’m looking forward to hearing from [the other participants] you about the issues of low literacy because we tend to think out of the box… to really make things usable to all people."
The second strategy workshop was held on May 13 in Newark, Delaware. While the first strategy workshop was attended by mostly partners and supporters (with a few community sites present), the Delaware meeting was comprised of mostly We Can! community sites from the different regions of the country.
In a similar format to the first strategy workshop session, participants discussed the current obesity prevention environment, community site needs, We Can! strengths and gaps, implementation strategies, successes, and challenges. The discussions focused on priority populations, outreach strategies for these populations, community site partnerships, and strategies being used to impact behavior and policy change.
Lessons learned at both workshops are being gathered, and will be incorporated into future plans for the We Can! program. Stay tuned for updates on We Can!'s progress!