As vice president of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program, Brian Weaver helps more than 20,000 schools — serving more than 12 million students — increase opportunities for physical activity and healthy eating. Brian is also a former high school athlete, so he knows first-hand the importance of healthy lifestyles for the students he serves.
What inspired you to start working on childhood obesity?
I knew from an early age that I wanted to work in a health related field and coming from a family that is filled with educators, I was drawn to the prevention side of health. I was working in HIV prevention and managing the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction when the childhood obesity epidemic caught my attention. I think it was around 2003, I started to interact with my colleagues who worked in obesity prevention, and at the same time the obesity related data from the YRBS was catching the attention of the public. Since 2005, I have worked in positions that look to change the social systems that impact obesity (e.g., schools, healthcare).
How are you helping to reverse childhood obesity?
The Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program helps schools create environments where all students have opportunities to be physically active and access to healthy foods and beverages. We lead schools through a continuous improvement process to create sustainable and systemic changes to their environment, impacting students, staff, and their families. The Healthy Schools Program provides schools with the resources, technical assistance, and tools to achieve this goal and at no cost to the school. More than 20,000 schools are involved in the Healthy Schools Program and these schools are positioned to impact more than 12 million students.
What’s your biggest accomplishment so far in helping reduce childhood obesity?
At the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, I led the development of a website that allows school districts to administer online middle school and high school Youth Risk Behavior Surveys. This has provided all schools in Wisconsin with the ability to collect valid and reliable data on student health behaviors. In addition to providing a no cost surveillance tool for schools, the website also provides easy to use data reports that assist schools in making data driven decisions on health programs and policy priorities.
Who is your role model in your work?
I don’t think I’ve had one role model that I’ve looked up to since my student athlete days back in high school. I find my inspiration and drive from the people around me in everyday life. I tend to focus on the strengths in people and by doing that I learn or see something in that person that I want to emulate. I’m fortunate that I am surrounded by very talented people at the Alliance so I have no shortage of opportunities for personal growth.
What types of physical activity did you enjoy growing up?
My brothers and I would play a mean game of “21” on the half court at our neighborhood school. We definitely were not the most talented basketball players, but we were fiercely competitive so it made for some exciting games.
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