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Gimme Five: Karla Hampton


Karla Hampton is the owner of Enigami Ventures where she is advocating for healthier communities to encourage physical activity and access to healthy food. Enigami Ventures recently released a new report about increasing water access in schools. Connect with Karla here

Name: Karla Hampton

Title: Owner/Consultant

Organization: Enigami Ventures, LLC.


What inspired you to start working on childhood obesity?

As a legal aid lawyer and a health policy advocate, I’ve always championed access to health care. And I was seeing individuals struggling with diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses caused by or exacerbated by obesity. Even in my own family I have seen the devastating impact of obesity. While access to treatment is important, prevention is the key. Encouraging healthy eating and active living among children and adolescents can change the trajectory of a young person’s life. I founded Enigami Ventures to advocate for healthy communities - healthy affordable food and housing, safe places to play, and quality health care.

How are you helping to reverse childhood obesity?

Enigami is “imagine” spelled backwards. At Enigami Ventures we dare to imagine and to create--whether it is innovative policy, systems or environmental change to establish healthy communities. “Healthy communities” to us means healthy affordable food and housing, safe places to play and quality health care. Enigami Ventures provides advocacy training and tools development, coalition building, and public speaking. We also write best practices, articles, publications and other materials.

One of our projects, Tapping Into Water, works to bring free, safe drinking water to schools, child care facilities, and community settings. Encouraging the consumption of water, especially in place of sugar-sweetened beverages, can help limit excess weight gain and prevent dental cavities. Federal law requires that schools make free drinking water available to students during mealtimes in areas where meals are served. But many schools are facing logistical, financial and other barriers in meeting this federal mandate.

So, I’ve partnered with Dr. Anisha Patel, a pediatric researcher at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and California Food Policy Advocates (CFPA) to develop evidence-based research that supports the need for policies and programs to improve access to free drinking water access in schools and child care facilities. We have published our research in the American Journal of Public Health and Preventing Chronic Disease. Also, we have provided training, model policies, and resources to help increase water consumption in schools.

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

We recently released Water Works: A Guide to Improving Water Access and Consumption in Schools to Improve Health and Support Learning. This guide is based, in part, on a 2011 California school administrator survey and a 2013 water-in-schools intervention study. The Water Works implementation guide can help interested individuals work with schools and community partners to increase access to free, high-quality drinking water sources in their schools. It provides a comprehensive description on how to start a school water program, including how to:

  • Build a team and gather support for the program;
  • Test water quality and remediate problems;
  • Choose a water delivery option;
  • Conduct promotional activities and implement policies to sustain the program; and
  • Monitor progress and make improvements.

The guide provides practical tools and resources to help increase water consumption in schools, such as a checklist for taking action, model school wellness policy language, and a comparison chart of the different water delivery options and reusable water bottles.

Who is your role model in your work?

I really admire the parents and community groups that are working at the grassroots level to improve the food and beverage environment in their schools and neighborhoods. I’ve seen schools be transformed by the tenacity and resourcefulness of a handful of parents and community advocates. Change starts with them. And in my work to develop environmental change policies for schools and communities, I always try to include the perspective of individuals and families who are facing certain realities every day.  Their voices and stories help to shape my work.

What game or sport did you play growing up?

Growing up, I loved to jump rope, especially Double Dutch, and dance. In the sixth grade, my friends and I formed a dance group and would perform our dance routines during recess. I went to a Christian school where secular music on campus was frowned upon (very Footloose), but we always found a way to sneak in a cassette tape player.

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.