Name: Brad Cavanagh
Title: Regional Campaign Manager
Organization: ANCHOR Partnership Program
ANCHOR, or Accelerating National Community Health Outcomes through Reinforcing Partnerships, is a community capacity building project funded by the CDC's National Implementation and Dissemination for Chronic Disease Prevention initiative. The American Heart Association is working in 15 markets around the country to mobilize key stakeholders and partners to protect people from tobacco smoke through smoke-free environment initiatives, improve access to healthy, nutritious food where people live, learn, work, and play, and encourage increased physical activity through shared use agreements and support of physical education in schools.
What inspired you to start working on childhood obesity?
While I was at Beloit College, I focused on becoming a pediatrician. Child health has always been a passion of mine. I started to realize that my impact as a pediatrician would be localized, and that’s what steered me to public health, where I felt I could make more of an impact. I have seen the impact of poor health, and knew that obesity prevention was very important, and I found a way to satisfy all of my interests in public health. I am a high school football coach now, and I am still passionate about working with kids. I have a public health focus throughout my life, so childhood obesity was the perfect setting for all of my interests to come to one place.
How are you helping to reverse childhood obesity?
The ANCHOR Wisconsin grant is focused on an area that is connected to a larger statewide obesity prevention initiative. Specifically, the ANCHOR project is focused on school-based and community-based physical activity initiatives. We are working on one facet of obesity prevention through promoting physical activity in five counties in Wisconsin for this grant, and are trying to adjust the way people look at physical activity and expanding the opportunities for children. We are working with elementary schools to implement quality physical education. We want to create a healthy atmosphere and inspire the students through education to live a healthy lifestyle, and tip the obesity scale over time in Wisconsin.
What’s your biggest accomplishment so far in helping reduce childhood obesity?
My biggest accomplishment so far is an item of personal pride. I am very excited that my Master's Capstone project is going to be published. It is a formative assessment and investigation into the physical activity aspects of afterschool programs. I looked at the issues that afterschool programs face that hinder time for kids to be active in afterschool programs, whether education based or free-play. I am also proud of the four years of contribution that I have had in Wisconsin coalitions in preventing childhood obesity throughout the state.
What do you look forward to most about your job?
I'm a public health nerd, and I love that I can get up and work on obesity prevention every day. I like working with communities and expanding the safe opportunities for kids to be active. I was able to play outside safely growing up, and I recognize that it's not like that in every community. We need to change kids’ perceptions that exercise is different than physical activity. We want to promote health equity and encourage the opportunities within communities so that they can change their lifestyles.
What healthy snacks did you enjoy growing up?
My favorite healthy snack is fruit. I love watermelon, and I will cut it in half and eat it. Watermelon and tropical fruits like pineapple and mangos are my favorite.
Each week, our own Amy Stone speaks with a Leader to get a quick look at why he or she loves working to create healthy environments for kids. Want to take part? Visit Amy's profile and contact her.