DeKalb County Commissioner Larry Johnson has been recognized by the National League of Cities for his efforts to get DeKalb residents moving.
Johnson was recognized for the recent completion of key health and wellness goals in the Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties (LMCTC), a major component of first lady Michelle Obama’s comprehensive initiative dedicated to addressing the childhood obesity epidemic.
“We may have the first generation that may not live past 50,” Johnson said. “We have teens going to the same cardiologist as their parents. We have to break that cycle.”
Four medals were awarded to DeKalb County for action taken to improve access to healthy, affordable food and increase opportunities for physical activity.
These medals were awarded because of DeKalb’s achievements for promoting participation in Let’s Move! Child Care among early care and education providers; having an active interagency collaboration on early care and education programs; mapping all play spaces, completing a needs assessment of play spaces and launching at least three proven policies, programs, or initiatives to continue to increase access to physical activity.
As chairman of the United Way Early Learning/School Readiness Commission, Johnson incorporated obesity awareness in the goals and objectives of the commission.
Johnson also created what he calls “The Wellness Zone,” incorporating the Porter Sanford Center, Exchange Park Intergenerational Center and (Wonderland Gardens) at Rainbow Park.
This zone is a walkable area where residents can go to the Porter Sanford Center for arts and entertainment, walk next door to Rainbow Park’s Wonderland Gardens and set up their own garden plot, and walk around the corner to Exchange Intergenerational Center for physical activity, including basketball, indoor walking, exercise classes as well as a workout room.
“Childhood obesity is an epidemic affecting our young people,” Johnson said. “We have a generation of children who, because of the prevalence of obesity, may not live to their 40s and who will be facing myriad health issues due to obesity. We have an obligation to raise awareness of this epidemic and provide workable solutions to address these issues.
“Exercise and [healthy] eating is where you want to start to get a healthy attitude,” Johnson said.
The National League of Cities is the lead collaborating partner on this initiative, working with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Association of Counties and other nonprofit organizations, in assisting local elected officials to implement policy and environmental changes to prevent childhood obesity.
More than 165 cities, towns and counties are participating in LMCTC. To date, NLC has awarded 578 medals to local elected officials across the country, recognizing these leaders for their progress in adopting long-term, sustainable, and holistic policies that improve communities’ access to healthy affordable food and opportunities for physical activity.