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Gimme Five with Toni Yancey


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.

Dr. Toni Yancey played high school and college basketball growing up, and started at center for Northwestern University. She is now a professor at the UCLA School of Public Health and is co-director of the UCLA Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Equity. Toni also created the award-winning program Instant Recess® to encourage physical activity in everyday life.

Name: Dr. Toni Yancey
Title: Professor
Organization: UCLA School of Public Health

What inspired you to start working on childhood obesity?

It was working with kids in foster care that got me involved in public health, so I think youth development and obesity prevention are natural allies in addressing disparities and inequities.

How are you helping to reverse childhood obesity?

Almost all of my research work and my community service go towards addressing childhood obesity.  For example, I serve as a Commissioner of the Los Angeles County First 5 Commission, and focus there on creating healthier environments in preschools and other places frequented by young children.  (Read here for information about our current project just launching, the National Healthy by Default REACH Project.)

What’s your biggest accomplishment so far in helping reduce childhood obesity?

The creation of Instant Recess®, an intervention approach that reintegrates physical activity and healthy eating into the normal “conduct of business.”  I believe that I was one of the first people to apply behavioral economics and social marketing principles to physical activity promotion in this way on a population-wide basis.

Who is your role model in your work?

I've had several, including Les Breslow and Shiriki Kumanyika. You can read this editorial to find out more about Les and me.

What healthy snacks did you enjoy growing up?

I've always loved fruit, and when I was growing up, it didn't come in roll-ups. Pears were a particular favorite.