From early on in her life, Erin McMillan realized that nutrition and healthy living were more than just a personal interest. Through various career experiences, Erin has found a way to tie in her passion for working toward decreasing childhood obesity, and currently is working as a Campaign Manager for the Active Transportation Alliance. Read on to learn more about Erin and the work she’s doing. You can also connect directly with Erin through her PreventObesity.net Leader profile here.
Name: Erin McMillan
Title: Campaign Manager
Organization: Active Transportation Alliance
What inspired you to start working on childhood obesity?
I was a Big Sister through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program in Lawrence, Kansas, where I went to college. My Little was unlike most Littles in the sense that she was part of a two-parent household, both of whom had stable jobs and were very involved in her upbringing. Most times I would pick my Little up after she had dinner and we would chat about what she ate. More often than not, her meals weren’t well-rounded with fruits and vegetables and often included processed junk food.
Realizing there was a need for families to be educated on basic nutrition, I started on a path toward nutrition and garden education straight out of college.
How are you helping to reverse childhood obesity?
Ever since I entered the professional world after college I’ve been helping decrease childhood obesity through different types of work. I was an AmeriCorps member for a nutrition education program called Cooking Matters through Share Our Strength. This work opened my eyes to the need to educate people on the importance of cooking well for yourself, and how to do it on a budget. There’s a misperception that cooking healthy has to be expensive and that was one of the myths we tried to debunk through our programming. After years of working in nutrition and garden education, I decided that while I still wanted to focus on public health, nutrition education wasn’t the right path for me. Being an avid walker and finding such joy from experiencing a neighborhood on foot, I eventually moved into the transportation field to fight for better active transportation options, like biking and walking, which have direct impacts on community health.
What’s your biggest accomplishment so far in helping reduce childhood obesity?
So far my biggest accomplishment is working with public health departments all over Illinois focusing on improving health through system and policy change. This specific project focused on installing bike racks and safety signs to encourage more biking and walking and increase community safety through improved signage.
Who is your role model in your work?
Mark Fenton. He’s a superstar in the biking and walking advocacy field. He’s a role model for me because of the way he fires up a room— his energy is like no other. His goals of improving public health through improving infrastructure, and increasing access to choices that support a healthy lifestyle parallel my own personal and professional goals.
What game or sport did you play growing up?
I was a swimmer in junior high and high school. Backstroke was my stroke so I could breathe as much as I liked!
Each week, our own Prarthana Gurung 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 Prarthana’s profile and contact her.