Tackling childhood obesity in communities

2 min read

At age four, Talita Jordan told her mother — a young, single parent — that she wanted to be a doctor. She stuck with the plan, becoming chief resident at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Now, a new graduate from Harvard School of Public Health with an M.P.H. in health policy, Jordan has a new ambitious plan. She is returning to D.C. to pilot a program aimed at tackling childhood obesity through community change that she hopes to eventually take nationwide.

As chief resident at Children’s, Jordan, known as “Dr. J”, took on the role of advocate for her young patients, often seeking to address the causes of their health problems, not just the symptoms. She became particularly struck by the complex web of factors behind the childhood obesity epidemic, particularly among minority kids. “It’s not just about the child’s food and physical activity,” Jordan said. “You have to change the entire family in order for the child to change. You have to change the community and make healthier choices the norm.”

In D.C., Jordan plans to create a community center that will tempt kids to move away from their screens and have fun being active. Jordan recalls the important role that such a center played in her own childhood. But she knows that it’s harder today to get kids out of the house, so she’s tailoring the program to her audience.