The 9th Biennial Childhood Obesity Conference is an opportunity for professionals across the country to attend the largest and most influential national event on combating pediatric overweight and obesity. With a theme of “Good Health for All: Addressing Where we Live, Work, and Play”, participants were encouraged to share and discuss best practices and initiatives that address health equity in order to promote and sustain healthy eating and physical activity. The UC San Diego Youth Advisory Council worked to create the California Youth Advisory Board that brought together youth from across the state to plan and prepare for making their voices heard at this conference.
On the morning of May 30th, YAC member Miguel spoke at the opening press conference with San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts that discussed the newly-released State of Childhood Obesity in San Diego County report for 2016. Miguel talked about health disparities, such as the high prevalence of fast food restaurants and few safe recreational spaces in low-income communities, and how how influential these factors are in determining the health of residents. In theme with the conference’s focus on health equity, Miguel stated how important it was for low-income neighborhoods to have the same environments and resources as more affluent areas that promote and support healthy lifestyles.
The California Youth Advisory Board members met the following day to attend the first full day of the conference. In-between the plenary and workshop sessions, the members gethered in the Youth Lounge to rest, socialize, and get involved in lounge activities such as icebreakers, health bingo, and writing about their involvement at the conference. In addition, the different youth groups that make up the California Youth Advisory Board each brought their own posters to showcase in the poster session, and members took turns hosting the Youth Photobooth in the exhibition room.
The second day of the conference opened with YAC member Suriyaan speaking at the opening plenary session along with Dr. Camara Jones. Later in the day, Youth Advisory Board member Noun participated in a panel led by Dr. Hernandez from the Center for Community Health that discussed racism, operationalizing health justice, and community-driven efforts to achieve health equity by addressing racism. The day ended with a stellar poetry slam from The Bigger Picture, a group of young poets who write and perform about the contributing factors to diabetes and obesity that they face in their communities.
In all, the California Youth Advisory Board members felt the Childhood Obesity Conference was an exciting opportunity to get involved in the discussion on health equity and bringing health to their communities. The experience allowed them to learn about the current interventions and initiatives that address populations with health inequities and the factors that impact health equity. Additionally, several youth were able to develop their public speaking and professional networking skills in order to convey their message about the importance of health in all communities.