Each week, our own Zach Brooks 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 Zach’s profile and contact him.
Lisa Sharma Creighton is a senior program coordinator at National Education Association Health Information Network. Lisa is leading a new project at NEA HIN called Bag the Junk, which is aiming to improve school health environments. As a kid, Lisa kept herself active in sports and was a big fan of the pizza muffin.
Name: Lisa Sharma Creighton
Title: Senior Program Coordinator for Nutrition, Hunger, and Physical Activity
Organization: NEA Health Information Network
What inspired you to start working on childhood obesity?
In my early career, I was a researcher on a study of binge eating behavior in children. I saw first-hand how nutrition counseling helped kids improve the quality of their diet, lose weight, and most importantly, improve their mood, outlook and self-esteem. The fact that this simple intervention had the capacity to make such a huge impact on a child astonished me and drove my desire to pursue a graduate degree in public health and a career working on childhood obesity.
How are you helping to reverse childhood obesity?
The NEA Health Information Network (NEA HIN) is a unique platform to reach educators with vital health messages. As an NEA HIN staffer I lead a national initiative called Bag the Junk that seeks to improve student health. We are educating, mobilizing and empowering members of school communities to replace junk snack foods and sugary drinks sold in their schools with healthier options. Using BagtheJunk.org as a platform, we’re helping the school community act as informed champions for healthy schools. In addition, I often give trainings to educators on ways to create healthier schools. Strategies include implementing strong wellness policies that promote healthy eating, encourage active living and support in-school programs, such as breakfast in the classroom and farm to school.
What’s your biggest accomplishment so far in helping reduce childhood obesity?
I’m going to cheat and give two answers to this one. First, I am very proud of launching BagtheJunk.org earlier this year. This is an amazing website with advocacy tools (organizing tips, policy briefs, fact sheets, and sample letters), current news and trends, and ideas from experts in the field. You should visit it! My second biggest accomplishment has been to provide assistance to school employees and advocates who are working to make their schools and communities healthier. Their caring enthusiasm is inspiring. The opportunity to offer best practices and resources to educators and supporting their efforts is my favorite part of my job.
Who is your role model in your work?
My parents! They are amazing people who instilled in me the value of good health to overall well-being and of working hard to achieve my dreams. As a kid, my mom welcomed me into the kitchen to teach me how to cook and always made sure we ate together as a family in the evening. And yes, that meant plenty of fruits and vegetables. As a young adult, my mom and dad supported my professional pursuits while also reminding me of the importance of work-life balance to personal and professional success.
What healthy snacks did you enjoy growing up?
I was an active kid — swimming, basketball, and field hockey were favorite sports – so snacks were a must. My favorite go-to after school snack was “ants on a log” (celery topped with peanut butter and raisins), something which I still eat when I’m feeling nostalgic. On days when I had a little more time, I would make a “pizza muffin,” an English muffin topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, heated up in the toaster oven — delicious!