Health disparities is an issue that, unfortunately, touches every community, and Denver, Colorado, is no unique case. Despite this, Megan Sound saw an opportunity to advocate for the youth in metro-area Denver, and “help their voices be heard” to better their nutritional and physical health. Read on to learn about the exciting and fun activities and programs Megan has facilitated through the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver, and connect with her directly through her PreventObesity.net Leader profile here.
Name: Megan Sound
Title: Healthy Lifestyles Coordinator
Organization: Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver
What inspired you to start working on childhood obesity?
For the past 10 years I've been working with youth at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver (BGCMD). Even though my background is not public health, I started to notice the health disparities of the neighborhoods where our Clubs are located and felt compelled to be an advocate for the youth and help their voices be heard when it comes to nutrition and physical activity issues. Once I understood the reality of food deserts and the negative health impacts lack of access to fresh fruits and veggies has on the youth and their families, my scope of work shifted from approaching things from a positive youth development perspective to a perspective grounded in health and wellness.
How are you helping to reverse childhood obesity?
As far as education and active living goes, we offer nutrition lessons to youth, healthy family cooking classes, frunning clubs (fun+running=frunning!), and a variety of fun recreational activities, based on the interests of the youth at each site.
Policy wise, I helped BGCMD work to eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages from our sites, including the flavored milk that was being served each night with dinner by the food bank.
I try to use a systems-thinking approach so that we don't place the burden of responsibility on the families or youth who we serve, and so that BGCMD can positively impact the health of many by casting a wide net rather than having a zoomed in approach that only focuses on individuals being responsible for calories in and calories burned.
What’s your biggest accomplishment so far in helping reduce childhood obesity?
So far, probably the organization policy regarding sugary drinks. It was a team effort, and I know that our youth consume much less sugar each day as a result. Many of their relatives have Type 2 diabetes, so to think that our policy is helping to prevent them from going down that same path, is an accomplishment.
Who is your role model in your work?
If I have to pick one, at the moment it's Ron Finley. I love his approach of getting the kids involved in the process of growing food and being proud of what they cultivate. I like the way he frames gardening, "Growing your own food is like printing your own money."
What game or sport did you play growing up?
THUNDERSNEAK. Okay, so I didn't start playing until I was an adult, but I consider myself a kid at heart, so hopefully that counts. It's exciting and involves running, agility, strategy, and teamwork...all in the dark in a park. Thundersneak is like a more collaborative/inclusive version of capture the flag.
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.