Fostering collective action with the National Football League and community organizations to improve the health and well-being of youth and their families in the metro area

For over 15 years, the American Heart Association and the National Football League (NFL) have championed 60 minutes of daily youth activity in schools, benefiting millions through the NFL Play 60 initiative. Through data and research, it was evident that youth around the country that have an opportunity to participate in the NFL Play 60 initiative may not experience equitable opportunities to live full, healthy lives outside of the classroom. Following the success of Inglewood Active Communities, which addressed social and environmental barriers that may prevent residents from being physically active, the Association and the NFL shifted their focus to the metro Atlanta community.

In metro Atlanta, there a several factors that impact the overall health within the community: 1 in 5 children are food insecure, a 48% increase during COVID-19; Atlanta possesses a walkability score of 48/100 meaning most city routes prevent safe outdoor physical activity; over 35 communities are food deserts creating barriers to affordable and nutritious food; and nearly 500,000 children reside in low well-being areas. 

As a result, eight local organizations, led by the American Heart Association, have joined hands to help improve youth physical activity and nutrition security in metro Atlanta. The coalition includes Atlanta Public Schools, HealthMPowers, Small Bites Adventure Club, South Atlanta Civic League, Sylvan Hills Middle School, The Villages at Carver Family YMCA and Wholesome Wave Georgia.

The Carver Cluster of schools has been identified as the most at-risk for poor health outcomes and well-being within the metro Atlanta area and over the next few years, the coalition will implement a multi-pronged approach to address these issues. 

“Historically, in the city of Atlanta, very few initiatives or projects progressed without the support of the residents within the community,” said De’Von Dixon, co-president of the South Atlanta Civic League. “It’s our duty collectively to ensure that the well-being of every family is a priority, and we are grateful to be a part of the coalition to do so.”

Currently, the coalition is working on several projects which include a Youth Advisory Committee that consists of local youth in the Carver Cluster, supporting the community garden at The Villages at Carver Family YMCA to provide hunger relief, and the Fresh to Health: Monthly Education Produce Box Workshop to increase student knowledge about the health benefits of produce and plant-based foods.  

“The hope is to transform the health landscape in the community, extending efforts beyond classrooms to bolster physical activity and nutrition security,” said Carla Smith, region senior vice president and executive director of the American Heart Association in metro Atlanta. “If we alleviate some of the socioeconomic and environmental barriers by increasing access to affordable and nutritious food in addition to safe places to play, we can give children in Atlanta a fighting chance to live healthier lives as adults.”

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