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Filled to the Rafters in Fairfax County, VA

It was elbow to elbow at the James Lee Community Center (Falls Church, VA) on September 12, as Northern Virginians put pen to paper. No, they weren’t voting early. They were eagerly learning nutrition-related numbers—ranging from assessing the daily value of fat in a serving of canned meat, to calculating body mass index (BMI) and the serving size of oatmeal—as part of an introductory We Can!™ training in Fairfax County, VA.

Having heard of We Can!’s national successes, Fairfax County’s Partners in Prevention Fund invited us to share our science-based approach with some 70 managers and employees from a broad array of county agencies and programs.

“We are facing an epidemic—a new Fairfax County study shows that 25 percent of our children are at risk of becoming overweight,” said Denise Raybon, countywide prevention coordinator. “Fairfax County has decided to address this at the systemic level.”

Photo of We Can! Parent Program training in Fairfax, VA

Hearing what We Can! has to offer was the first step. The We Can! Parent Program, S.M.A.R.T., and Media-Smart Youth showed participants how to promote healthy weight in children through improved food choices, increased physical activity, and reduced screen time. All three were enthusiastically received.

So was the firsthand experience of Autumn Saxton-Ross, the facilitator of nearby Montgomery County, MD’s successful We Can! program. Ms. Saxton-Ross touched upon the similarities between Montgomery and Fairfax counties, and spoke about ways that she promotes her program not only externally but also internally to her own staff.

“Once a month I go and buy healthy snacks, things I know employees would never try themselves,” said Saxton-Ross. “The people in our department then go home and take these better nutritional choices to their children.”

As at other We Can! trainings, although children are the focus, people of all ages benefit. We Can! received an enthusiastic thumbs-up from the adult audience that day, and is being considered by county officials for a more formal partnership.


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