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HL20: Ginny Ehrlich, MPH, D.Ed—Lessons on Childhood Obesity, for Kids and Adults

Karen Minich-Pourshadi, for HealthLeaders Media, December 13, 2012

In our annual HealthLeaders 20, we profile individuals who are changing healthcare for the better. Some are longtime industry fixtures; others would clearly be considered outsiders. Some are revered; others would not win many popularity contests. All of them are playing a crucial role in making the healthcare industry better. This is the story of Ginny Ehrlich, MPH, D.Ed.

This profile was published in the December, 2012 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

 "Changing childhood obesity is both cultural and systemic. We learn our eating habits from our families and our community. Schools and communities help reinforce those behaviors."

In the pursuit of reducing the cost of healthcare there's a great deal of attention paid to chronic disease, but much of that focus centers on diseases in adulthood. But in the past 20 years childhood obesity has also nearly doubled, according to National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and it has been linked to costly chronic care diseases including adult obesity and diabetes and an increased risk of heart failures and asthma. To help address chronic disease in its later stages, many believe it must be tackled when people are young. And, childhood obesity is preventable if you can connect with the children and teach them good habits early. That's what Ginny Ehrlich, MPH, D.Ed, CEO of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation is doing by taking her organization's programs to the schools and beyond.

"Changing childhood obesity is both cultural and systemic," says Ehrlich. "We learn our eating habits from our families and our community. Schools and communities help reinforce those behaviors."

Ehrlich joined the Alliance in 2006 and has been working to increase children's access to healthy foods and physical activity at schools and communities nationwide. The Alliance was founded by the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation and has been led by Ehrlich since 2008. The Healthy Schools Program, one of several initiatives the organization supports, includes more than 15,000 schools across the United States and offers expert advice and resources for school professionals, teachers, students, and parents to encourage healthy eating and exercise.

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