Name: Candace Pierce
Title: Regional Campaign Team Lead
Organization: American Heart Association
Meet Candace Piece, the regional campaign team lead for ANCHOR. Candace has worked for nonprofits since beginning of her career. She worked extensively with tobacco campaigns and ran a ballot initiative to raise tobacco taxes. Now she is the regional campaign team lead based in Rhode Island.
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?
I have always had an interest in maintaining health among kids. One reason is because their health now defines their health later in life. I like to focus on physical activities, health, and diet.
How are you helping to reverse childhood obesity?
I am working on physical activity within schools and increasing the amount of physical activity time in schools. Currently in Rhode Island, 100 minutes of physical activity is required a week, and this time is divided between PE and health class. Looking at Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program (CSPAT) that requires that they have 60 minutes per day, for quality physical education, they need to have it be moderate to hard physical activity. I am trying to get all of the Providence schools to become part of that program.
I also promote physical activity and the benefits that it has with performance in school, overall health, and depression. One thing that happened, is that kids have ended up sitting in the classroom a lot. I would like to change that. Kids do better overall in school when they can move around.
Currently, I am focused on doing an audit of the schools. No one knows what a successful and balanced program looks like; I want to see the overall view of the schools and see what they have done so far in the hope of increasing the opportunity to provide funding.
I have also worked extensively with shared property use agreements, so that people can use parks, schools, and have places that they can use for physical activity.
What’s your biggest accomplishment so far in helping reduce childhood obesity?
The area that we are doing best with are schools in the physical activity sphere. The wellness policy in Providence is very strong. We have a real opportunity here to take that policy and take it to the next level and make sure it is actually implemented.
What do you look forward to most about your job?
I love collaborating with partners at the local level. There are a lot of people who are very concerned about this issue. It's nice to work with other people and increase our partnerships. Brown University is doing a lot of work around this issue.
What healthy snacks did you enjoy growing up?
I really like fresh fruit. Peaches, plums, apples or strawberries are some of my favorites. And when it’s hot, I love to eat frozen grapes.
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.