Southern-Obesity-Summit-to-convene-in-New-Orleans

Southern Obesity Summit to convene in New Orleans

Bike lanes and school gardens in New Orleans will be on display as part of the fifth annual Southern Obesity Summit this fall.

Beyond the conference walls, the expected 400 attendees Oct. 2-5 will also have opportunities to tour the city to see community programs and government projects supporting healthier lifestyles.

The summit will draw together public-health workers and public policymakers from 16 southern states in the hopes of sharing information about programs and policies tailored to the South, said Klaus Madsen, MPH, director of special projects at the Texas Health Institute.

"One of the challenges, in all parts of government, is budgets are being reduced," Madsen said. "And so that means it's even more important now that you pursue interventions you know are effective. You can't afford to start a project that does not produce the effect that you promised."

The conference includes 50 interactive sessions showcasing innovative policy and community-based initiatives across the South. Sessions will be held at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel on Canal Street.

There will be keynote speeches from southern and national leaders, skill-building workshops focused on obesity prevention and health reform, roundtable discussions and networking opportunities.

Among the sessions' speakers is Kate Parker-Karst, MPH, assistant director at the Prevention Research Center at Tulane University. Karst will host a workshop on how to develop a local food-policy council to advise public officials on best practices and regulations for obesity prevention. She'll also lead breakout sessions on developing a statewide obesity-prevention policy agenda and creating pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly communities to lower childhood obesity rates.

"Changing the city's landscape to be more conducive to safe walking and cycling is a major focus of the Tulane PRC," Parker-Karst said. "Our research shows that people are more physically active in neighborhoods that are well designed for these types of exercise."

For the first time, the summit is also setting aside sessions for state and city policymakers called the Policymaker Symposium, thanks to financial support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

"We hope that convening them can spur new relationships and collaborations across our states," Madsen said.

As for the field trips, attendees can hike the Lafitte Corridor, a roughly 3-mile long greenway that links neighborhoods, such as the French Quarter, Treme, City Park and Lakeview. Conference participants can also bike through Uptown via new bike lanes on St. Charles and Carrollton avenues. Another tour will take participants to visit Samuel J. Green Charter School, the FirstLine school that was the first to work with the Edible Schoolyard New Orleans. There, conference-goers will see the students' one-third of an acre organic edible garden, the teaching kitchen and the Green Cafe. The fourth tour will take visitors to the Hollygrove Market and Farm, a micro-urban farm, educational center and local produce market, to learn about sustainable growing practices.

For information about the Southern Obesity Summit, visit www.southernobesitysummit.org.

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