Florida Family Network and FAMU's Institute of Public Health Awarded $80,000 to Begin to
Fight Childhood Obesity in Tallahassee
Florida Family Network (FFN) and Florida A & M University, (FAMU) Institute of Public Health, College of
Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences recently received an $80,000 grant from the Blue Foundation for
a Healthy Florida, of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida (BCBSF) to combat childhood obesity in
"This grant comes at a time where the childhood and adult obesity rates are alarmingly high not only in
Leon County and the state of Florida specifically, but in general, we are seeing our data mirroring national
data", said Sokoya Finch, Executive Director of Florida Family Network.
According to the CDC, nationally childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. The
prevalence of obesity among children aged 6 to 11 years increased from 6.5% in 1980 to 19.6% in
2008. The prevalence of obesity among adolescents aged 12 to 19 years increased from 5.0% to 18.1%.
FAMU's Institute of Public Health professor and director, Dr. Cynthia M. Harris, said a few years ago,
"It was almost unheard of to see children with heart disease or Type 2 diabetes due to obesity". She
said Type 2 diabetes used to be called "adult-onset diabetes," but no more. That's why the grant is
needed, Harris said.
Compelled by the serious and widespread of the obesity epidemic for children, families, communities
and the healthcare system, the Blue Foundation for a Healthy Florida, the philanthropic affiliate of Blue
Cross and Blue Shield of Florida (BCBSF) launched a statewide initiative called Embrace a Healthy
Florida in May 2008. The $8 million, four-year strategic effort addresses the causes of childhood
obesity through public-private partnership.
Tallahassee is one of five Florida cities collaborating with The Blue Foundation through Embrace a Healthy
Florida - The Blue Foundation's childhood obesity initiative. "Childhood obesity's widespread threat to
children, families, communities and the health care system compels us to take action," said Susan Towler,
vice president, the Blue Foundation for a Healthy Florida. "Through Embrace a Healthy Florida, we hope to
work side-by-side with the Tallahassee coalition to stop the epidemic before more of our children
develop diabetes, heart disease and other obesity-related health problems." These concerted efforts
may help to parallel and promote similar endeavors in Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa and Miami.
Embrace a Healthy Florida supports community-based programs that promote change in families'
dynamics, parenting, child care centers and schools, neighborhood recreation opportunities and other
factors that influence on the availability and accessibility of healthy food and the frequency of physical
The leading coordinating institution/agency (FAMU & FFN) has a management/administrative team who
are also responsible for coordination and direction of the coalition, consisting of Miaisha Mitchell,
Executive Director of the Greater Frenchtown Revitalization Council (Front Proach Initiative) and
Dr. Penny Ralston, Professor, dean Emeritus (College of Human Sciences) and Director of the Center
on Better Health and Life for Underserved Populations at Florida State University. Both Ralston and
Mitchell will serve as COPE consultants bringing in their expertise to enhance the work of the coalition
and help guide the direction, results and the building of a best practice template.
The Tallahassee project, entitled, "Healthy Children! Healthy Future! Healthy Tallahassee! Hope Thru
Childhood Obesity Prevention Education (COPE) Coalition plans to develop and implement a multisectoral
community-wide coalition focused on reducing childhood obesity in Tallahassee. The COPE coalition will
address the following priority areas:
1. Public health
2. Early care and education
4. Community planning
5. Parks and recreation
6. Public safety
7. Medical/health provider services
Through the formation of interdisciplinary COPE teams, each of the above priority areas will be covered in its
entirety. These teams will have a specific focused area with the COPE Coalition. The COPE Teams will
develop specific goals and measurable objectives for their area of focus. A logic model/service delivery
model will be the conceptual framework in which the coalition will further its work to do a number of things
- Recruit youth engagement and involvement in the initiative
- Increase parental involvement, engagement, buy-in and ownership of the work, its strategies, and
outcomes of the work
- Engage local and state lawmakers in the COPE Coalition work to inform policies particularly pertaining to
social determinants that contribute to overweight and obesity in Tallahassee children
- Develop a 5-year COP Coalition Strategic Plan to address overweight and obesity in Tallahassee Children
through a mini-grant process to organizations, agencies, etc.
- Evaluate the process and outcome evaluations of all COPE Coalition procedures, activities and the
effectiveness of the COPE coalition products and outcomes
This year COPE's work plan will consist of three phases:
- Phase I - Orientation and introduction – establishing vision, mission, goal, objectives & setting
- Phase II - Review, assessment and development – review of existing work and best practices
resulting in the development of COPE teams
- Phase III - Strategic Plan Development, information dissemination and outcome evaluation. The
development of a mini-grant process (for year 2) and an annual outcome evaluation to measure
success in meeting project goals and objectives.
COPE's coalition partners joined its efforts during the application stage. Individuals, agencies, medical
community, organizations, local, county, and state government individuals and agencies are not only
supporting this initiative, but they are also sharing their resources, assisting in bridging various gaps in
the areas of childhood obesity, and blending previous and current work towards one coalition that
serve the children and families impacted by obesity and its contributing factors to poor health within
the communities of Tallahassee.
"We feel we have a strong university/community collaborative that involves the key players &
key stakeholders in city, county and state government, Leon County Public Schools, the healthcare
professions, public health, indoor/outdoor recreation-physical activities organizations, and others.
Our job will be to have the legs of the table to be the parents/caretakers of the children who are fighting
obesity as well as the youth. We will be a real meaningful coalition if we have a good representation of
concern parents, family members and youth who can give breath and dept to this body of work. When
this happens, this will be true community involvement, real coalition work and thereforth its efforts
sustainable. With this type and level of involvement, our efforts will be grounded in gravity, research,
policy and practice", said Finch.
COPE had its first coalition meeting on October 28, 2010 at the Lincoln Neighborhood Community Center.