Press Releases

State Unveiling New Campaign to Change Chubby Children’s Lifestyles

State of Tennessee Press Release,  Sep 15, 2010:

“Eat Well, Play More” Plan to Reduce Obesity in Tennessee

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen and Health Commissioner Susan R. Cooper, MSN, RN, will release Tennessee’s comprehensive, statewide nutrition and physical activity plan, Eat Well, Play More Tennessee on Thursday, September 16, 2010. This five-year plan, developed by the Tennessee Obesity Taskforce, provides a comprehensive roadmap to reduce obesity and chronic disease in Tennessee by 2015.

“Eat Well, Play More Tennessee is a call to action for all Tennesseans to take a more active role in improving their personal health and the health status of our state,” said Governor Bredesen. “We are setting a goal of improving the health of Tennessee, and I appreciate the work of the Taskforce members to help us accomplish that goal.”

The need for such a plan is clear. Statistics from the 2009 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System show 69 percent of Tennessee adults are either obese or overweight. That same year, BRFSS data show Tennessee adults tied with their Alabama counterparts for having the second highest rate of obesity in the United States, with 32.8 percent of adults in the state classified as obese. The National Institutes of Health defines obesity as having a body mass index of 30 or higher, which generally means one is at least 30 pounds overweight for his or her height and age.

“The bottom line is more than three million Tennesseans are carrying too much weight, putting themselves at risk for some very serious diseases including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and some cancers,” said Cooper. “The children of Tennessee are not immune to this devastating health challenge, as 39 percent of those aged 10-17 are overweight or obese, with the number approaching 52 percent in some counties.”

Eat Well, Play More Tennessee is for individuals or groups that want to help reduce the burden of obesity in Tennessee – policymakers, local and state planners, health care providers, educational systems, employers and communities. The plan will be formally launched at the annual meeting of the Tennessee Public Health Association, held at the Cool Springs Marriott Hotel & Convention Center in Franklin, Tenn. on September 16 and 17, 2010.

“Our first goal is to slow the rate of weight gain in Tennessee,” said Joan Randall, chair of the Tennessee Obesity Taskforce and administrative director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Obesity and Metabolism/Diabetes Center. “Next, we hope to stabilize weight and prevent further weight gain. Finally, we would like to see the prevalence of overweight and obesity begin to decline in Tennessee.”

The primary focus of Eat Well, Play More Tennessee is to create policy and environmental changes in the places where people live, work, learn, play and pray that will improve the health of Tennesseans of all ages and abilities. The plan strives to build lasting and comprehensive efforts to address obesity and other chronic diseases through a variety of nutrition and physical activity strategies that reduce the barriers to daily physical activity and access to healthy foods.

“Through these strategies, we can all come together to create a Tennessee where healthy eating and physical activity are the norm, rather than the exception,” said Peter Oldham, co-chair elect of the Tennessee Obesity Taskforce and executive vice president and chief administrative officer of the YMCA of Middle Tennessee.

The Eat Well, Play More Tennessee plan focuses on numerous target areas and vulnerable populations: healthy and affordable food availability in low-income areas; breastfeeding initiation and duration, which is clinically proven to reduce the risk of pediatric overweight; and sugar-sweetened beverages, which according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2009 is the single largest driver of the obesity epidemic. Other focus areas include: built environment and transportation facilities; parks and recreation; screen time at the computer and watching television; early childcare; schools; health systems; faith-based settings; work sites; aging populations; mental health and disabled populations; African American and Latino populations and rural communities.

The Tennessee Obesity Taskforce is a broad-based, statewide coalition which links scientists, clinicians, city planners, school officials, state agencies, policymakers, transportation experts, nutritionists, parents and representatives of our most vulnerable populations. Individuals and members of more than 100 organizations throughout Tennessee joined forces to create this plan.

This project is funded under an agreement with the Tennessee Department of Health. Tennessee is one of 27 states funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity.

The Eat Well, Play More Tennessee plan is available online at For further information or to become a strategic partner, contact Tennessee Obesity Taskforce Chair Joan Randall at

Press Releases

Gubernatorial Candidate Forum Scheduled for Children’s Advocacy Days: March 9-10

Press Release from the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, 1 March 2010:

Candidates to lead Tennessee will share their plans to care for its future – its children – Wednesday, March 10, in a forum at Children’s Advocacy Days.

The Children’s Advocacy forum is part of a two-day event focusing ?attention on issues affecting children and providing citizens information for policy advocacy for children. Sponsored by the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth and its regional councils, the free ?event will be at War Memorial Auditorium March 9-10.

Nashville journalism legend and founder of the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University John Seigenthaler will moderate the 10 a.m. forum. Shelby County District Attorney General Bill Gibbons, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, former state House Democratic Leader Kim ?McMillan, Jackson businessman Mike McWherter, Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey and Congressman Zach Wamp have confirmed participation in the forum. News Channel 5, the Nashville CBS affiliate will broadcast the forum at times to be announced prior to the election and make it available to other CBS affiliates across the state.

Children’s Advocacy Days, in its 22nd year, will also feature presentations on critical services on Tuesday, March 9. The Making KIDS COUNT Media, Youth Excellence and the Jim Pryor Child Advocacy awards will be announced on the event’s first day.

Bill Bentley, president of Voices for America’s Children’s, will kick off Wednesday’s events, which also include a presentation by Education Commissioner Tim Webb on Tennessee’s Race to the Top.

In keeping with the election year activities, the theme of 2010 Children’s Advocacy Days will be a political picnic, with everything but the ants – opportunities for participants to meet their legislative ?representatives, plan to work together and celebrate their hard work and vision for Tennessee’s children.

The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth is an independent agency created by the Tennessee General Assembly. Its ?primary mission is to advocate for improvements in the quality of life for Tennessee children and families. For more information contact TCCY at (615) 741-2633 or visit the agency website at Online registration (at ends midnight Thursday, March 4. Onsite registration begins at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Additional information on the event is available at

Liberty and Justice

Inmate-Reported Sex Abuse High at Nashville Youth Prison

State lawmakers asked Department of Children’s Services officials Monday to explain why a juvenile detention facility was listed in a federal government report as having one of the highest rates of sexual abuse in the nation.

Last month the U.S. Department of Justice released a study which found that 26 percent of the juveniles housed at the male-only Woodland Hills facility in Nashville claimed to have been sexually abused while at the facility.

Members of the joint Select Committee on Children and Youth questioned DCS officials for well over an hour during a hearing at the Capitol.

“How can this happen?” asked Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville, who chairs the committee. “Isn’t there supposed to be another staff member there all the time? Are there security cameras in place? Are there preventative things in place? I just don’t understand how this happened.”

Woodland Hills Superintendent Albert Dawson maintained that the juvenile inmates are supervised at all times. Surveillance cameras have been installed in the last six months, he added.

“(The cameras are) not in the students’ rooms and they’re not in the shower areas, but they are in all of the common areas,” he said.

DCS Deputy Commissioner Steve Hornsby downplayed the report’s findings, saying it does not necessarily mean there are major problems at the facility.

“(The report) is based on allegations — it’s not based on substantiated cases,” he said. “It’s based on allegations as part of an anonymous survey that was conducted.”

“We want to find out what it is (that led to the results of the survey), and we want to get to the bottom of it,” he added. “We have nothing to hide.”

In the past year, there were about 130 investigations for physical abuse, sexual abuse or lack of supervision, according to DCS officials. Of those, eight were “substantiated.”

Not all the legislators on the committee indicated they were satisfied by those numbers or the department’s explanations.

“It just seems curious that there were 130 investigations and there were only eight that appeared to have sufficient evidence,” said state Sen. Thelma Harper, D-Nashville. “That really seems far-fetched, unless they had some kind of game going on.”

In fact, even that number may be “over-reported,” Dawson said.

“If a child gives any hint that there’s anything wrong going on with him, then it’s reported to Child Protective Services, (and) it’s reported to Internal Affairs, to go through the procedure,” he said.

Hornsby promised DCS was taking the report “very seriously,” and that department officials are “looking at what we can do” to address the allegations and the well-being of inmates.

“I take it personally, and you’ve got my assurance we won’t be on there the next time if we can do anything about it. And we are doing things about it,” he said.

Lawmakers on the panel suggested they may move to intervene or further investigate, though.

“Whatever we’re doing is not working,” said Rep. Chad Faulkner, R-Luttrell. “This is something we need to address now and fix. This is something we don’t need to really sit on. This is pretty embarrassing for me, and I know all these other members (of the committee), and (DCS) as well. We need to do whatever it takes to fix it.”

The federal study was mandated by the Prison Rape Elimination Act that Congress passed in 2003. It requires federal corrections authorities to conduct a yearly “comprehensive statistical review and analysis of the incidents and effects of prison rape.”

Information-gathering for the analysis was conducted between June 2008 and April 2009, and involved 166 state-owned or operated facilities and 29 locally or privately operated facilities.

The facilities examined house about 26,550 youth inmates nationwide. “Overall, 91% of youth in these facilities were male; 9% were female,” the report stated.

“Among the 13 high-rate facilities, most reports of sexual victimization involved non-consensual sexual acts with another youth and serious sexual acts with facility staff excluding touching,” according to the report.