Written by Lakeysha Sowunmi
I was invited to the 2012 Health Matters: Activating Wellness In Every Generation Conference hosted by President Bill Clinton. Philanthropists, celebrities and politicians were there. So were doctors, health professionals and athletes. We exchanged ideas and told of our experiences creating healthier communities. As an everyday mom, I was honored to be included with these leading voices of change.
Why was a regular mom invited to an event with a former president and other important people working to address our nation’s health problems? Because it’s moms like me that are part of the solution.
I’m a wife and a mom with a passion for children’s health and a get-it-done attitude that comes from eight years of service in the U.S. Navy. As a mother of three, it can be a battle sometimes to get my kids to eat right. In addition, I have been working on the frontlines of the obesity epidemic for the past five years in San Diego.
In my community, I help moms like me understand healthy changes start one small step at a time. I teach by example, and I motivate them to make healthy choices. At church I encourage attendance in physical activity and nutrition education classes. I share free recipes and healthy tips from on-line sources like www.CAChampionsforChange.net, and I use healthy cooking demonstrations to show moms how to change the way they prepare and serve food at home. Often I meet moms who are struggling to put food on the table, and I tell them about CalFresh benefits that help low-income families stretch food dollars. I know how hard it is to make ends meet, and a little help can go a long way.
When asked to tell my story at this event with President Clinton, I was honored. For me, the conference was a pat on the back. It also reminded me that I am my brother’s keeper and reinforced the importance of my work to empower moms like me to make healthy changes for their families and communities.
At the conference I met a host of pro golfers and celebrities. I shared a stage with Academy Award Winner Goldie Hawn. I worked out with Jillian Michaels, the health and wellness expert, and I shook President Clinton's hand. He inspired me the most. Not only because he is a former president, but also because he is passionate about confronting the obesity epidemic facing our nation. I left the conference inspired, and I pledged to do even more.
My family has a history of high blood pressure and diabetes, and my children are growing up in a state where one in nine children, one in three teens and over half of adults are overweight or obese. In the fight against obesity, our first line of defense is offense. Stay healthy. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables at every meal. Drink water instead of sugary beverages. Speak up for healthy change in your neighborhood. After all, small steps can lead to big health improvements.
I share my story to inspire other moms to join the movement to eat healthy and be active every day. I tell them that if I can do it you can do it.
I lead by example, and I teach my children what to eat and how much to move. Another way I support my kids is through their school where I have pushed for healthier food in the cafeteria and organized walk-a-thons to raise money.
As I continue my fight for healthy changes at home, in schools and in my neighborhood, I will reflect on the conference, the people I met and the stories they shared. And in turn, I am hopeful they will remember what I shared with them.
You don’t have to be well known to make healthy changes in your community. Moms like me are doing it. Sometimes we just need a little help and inspiration.
As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “The time is always right to do the right thing.”
Lakeysha Sowunmi has been recognized as a Champion Mom by the State of California for work on behalf of her community. She is a coordinator with the Network for a Healthy California—San Diego & Imperial Region, University of California – San Diego School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics Division of Child Development and Community Health.