Who are our enemies? Who is our competition?

by Karla Lester, MD

Soda and fast food and screen time. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

The other day, I was eating lunch out by myself. I can chew and think at the same time. I must have been eating some good healthy food, because after five years of working in the public health, nonprofit, childhood obesity worlds, I started thinking about things in a completely different way.

Reality hit me. Our real competition is not other organizations with like-minded missions, scrambling for limited local funds. Any outcomes from these organizations benefit the Teach a Kid to Fish mission. It may be that their level of funding is disproportionate to what I think is deserved. It doesn’t matter, because any inching towards our mission, is movement in the right direction. The real enemies are not even soda, fast food and screen time. I would encourage all of us not to demonize the competition. We will lose our audiences, and that’s because soda, fast food, and screen time, are all here to stay. We need to help families reach a balance in their lives. Some soda, some fast food, and some screen time is okay. The real competition is the unhealthy behaviors, which are ubiquitous in our communities, such as the overconsumption of soda and portion distortion. The costs of healthy foods, increased opportunities for screen time, changes in our built community, all make it harder to make the healthy choice the easy choice.
Here’s some advice for a community organization with a mission to prevent childhood obesity to consider:
First, we need, on a community level, to debunk myths, such as:
• Healthy foods don’t taste good.
• My kids won’t eat healthy foods.
• My kids don’t want to play outside.

This can be done through consistent messages and education. Make everything easy for families and fun. Engage youth in your efforts. Then, engage the key sectors of your community in advocacy to address the competition. I think we are reaching a tipping point. Let’s move!


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