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Newly Released CAN DO Playbook Offers Advocates Steps to Defeat Obesity


Activists and organizations targeting the problem of obesity at the local level know that everyone in their communities needs to be committed to victory. And to coordinate their game plan, they need resources that lay out how to get everyone in the community on the same page.

The Collaborative Action Now to Defeat Obesity (CAN DO) Playbook, newly unveiled by the National Institute for Children’s Health Quality, hopes to be just that resource.

“Through interactive exercises, the CAN DO Playbook teaches proven, field-tested improvement strategies for the many settings than influence health, including schools, clinics, hospitals and communities,” the institute says in its introduction to the course.

The Playbook offers about four or five hours’ worth of content for local advocates, who can work through the course offerings at their own pace. First, it discusses how to implement the “plan-study-do-act” model to improve the quality of obesity-prevention programs. Then it lays out its game plan of six steps:

1)      Form an effective team: The course focuses in part on the need for “multi-sector representation” that includes people working in public health, primary care, and community institutions – the three groups targeted by the Playbook.

2)      Create a consistent message: Examples are included of healthy-living messages that have targeted a variety of communities, from Philadelphia’s “215 Go” initiative to a program working with a Native American community in Wisconsin. A number of the examples cite creative ways of driving home the “5-2-1-0” goals (five servings of fruits and vegetables, two or fewer hours of screen time, one or more hours of active play, and zero sugary drinks).

3)      Develop a system for assessing weight status and health behaviors: The playbook offers a healthy weight assessment template that advocates can tailor to the particular needs of their community.

4)      Deploy a customized healthy weight plan for all individuals: Specific examples of programs that made use of effective healthy weight plans, from Michigan to Massachusetts to Pennsylvania, are included, and the course gives tips on how to motivate people to change their habits.

5)      Align resources to build the capacity of your community: Video segments offer advice on how to target the right partner organizations, engage with them, keep them informed, and deal effectively with problems.

6)      Influence policies that enable exercise and healthy eating: The playbook advocates a “start small approach” to policy change, offering examples ranging from reducing sugary drinks and junk food in schools and offices to adding bike lanes in neighborhoods and making helmets available to kids who need them.

The course wraps up with a look at some strategies to make programs sustainable. An online community associated with the Playbook allows users to share ideas and network with fellow advocates. A Resources section sends course users in the direction of a variety of other online training tools.

The CAN DO Playbook is free to access and can be found here. The institute’s related online community on healthy weight promotion can be joined here.

Donna Brutkoski authored this report.