The Detroit News May 27, 2010

Activist turns from sex ed to food ed for White House    By Laura Berman

It says something about these times in which we live that the state of Michigan’s go-to sex educator is turning her thoughts, and expertise, to another area that excites passions and desire: food.

Sex and food have much in common, says Barb Flis, including this central key to talking about either one: “You can’t blame them or shame them.”

Her sudden turnabout in subject matter is a direct result of a call from the White House in March, when Flis was summoned to Washington: The first lady’s team wanted to hear her thoughts about getting parents involved in kids eating healthier foods and exercising more.

At that point, Michelle Obama was preparing to roll out her “Let’s Move” program (http://www.letsmove.gov). Flis offered very specific expertise: For a dozen years, she’s been working with parents to help schools devise sex education curriculums. Her forte is defusing the emotion around a sensitive subject and getting people to talk — and to understand the importance of good information, rationally delivered.

What works for sex ought to work for food.

With childhood obesity rates at epidemic proportions, and the first lady campaigning to intervene, Flis opted to help: If her advice was useful to Washington, why not help with the effort, she reasoned.

“The government isn’t going to be able to create change,” says Flis. “Parents are going to have to.”

Now she’s reaching out to activists like Rachael Hilliker, a Lansing-area government worker and mom, who is screening “Two Angry Moms,” in Lansing next month — a documentary about two women who declared war on their local school lunch program and actually created change.

She’s made contact with a couple of Chelsea neophyte gardeners who named their community vegetable gardening effort, undertaken with the help of a master gardener, “Two Dirty Virgins and a Hoe.”

See? There’s that link between food and sex again. “There are a lot of similarities: It’s all about practicing good behaviors, good habits, thinking critically about how you act — or eat,” she says.

And she’s incorporated Obama’s official “Let’s Move” banner into her own website, Parent Action for Healthy Kids.

Flis is working on a statewide survey of parents that will canvas health habits, the state of school lunch programs, and how parents plan meals and snacks.

Activists like Hilliker — who sees herself launching a grass roots effort to force healthier school lunches — are part of her focus. But after a decade of talking about sex with parents and teens, she believes in the wisdom of a gentle approach.

As an advocate for making good choices, Flis was already a fairly healthy eater. But even she has adopted better habits over the past few months. She stopped eating sweetened low-calorie yogurt, switching to a high protein, unsweetened Greek-style brand.

She kicked the diet soda habit, after reading that artificial sweeteners can cause food cravings. Now she intends to quietly encourage others to change their behavior, in their homes.

Wary of being panned as a “food Nazi” or health nut, Flis is more educator than activist. She’s all in favor of small changes, duly rewarded.

So join the movement: Steam up a batch of broccoli and brown rice, exercise for 30 minutes, and congratulate yourself.

Laura Berman’s column runs Tuesday and Thursday in Metro. Reach her at lberman@detnews.com

“Seven Dirty Virgins and a Hoe”

Parents are signing up and sharing their stories!  Angie, a mom from Chelsea, Michigan signed on to our Parent Call to Action and shared what she and other moms are doing to improve healthy eating and physical activity not only for their own families but for the community.  Angie and six other moms thought it would be fun to plant a community garden to socialize, get exercise and have fresh produce.  The problem, however, was none of them had ever gardened before.  They decided to ask an expert to show them what to do and, “Seven Dirty Virgins and a Hoe,” as they call themselves, are now busy in their garden.  This labor of love isn’t just for their families, it’s a learn-to-garden-to-give-back-to-the-community initiative.  There’s even a large playground next to the community garden so their kids can play.  Here are the “Dirty Virgins” hard at work.  Way to make a difference, Chelsea Moms!

If you haven’t already, join my Parent Call to Action today!

Seven Dirty Virgins and a Hoe

Seven Dirty Virgins and a Hoe

Honoring the Great Work Of My Colleagues and Friends

Posted May 26th, 2010

I was honored to be invited to celebrate with family and friends at the Motown Mansion for Dr. Kimberlydawn Wisdom and her family.  The setting was beautiful and the Wisdom family so very gracious and fun.  Here I am with friends and colleagues from our work with the Governor’s Talk Early & Talk Often℠ initiative — Nancy Combs, Dr. Wisdom & me; Nancy Combs, Tiffany Baker & me; and with new friends, Sharon Milberger & Cheryl Abaloz from Henry Ford Health System.  

From the Motown Mansion I headed to the Detroit Athletic Club for reception and dinner for my friend, and fellow MOASH (www.moash.org) board member Dr. Cheryl Gibson Fountain.  Cheryl was installed as the 127th President of the Wayne County Medical Society of Southeast Michigan.  She spoke so compassionately about the need for health coverage for all Michigan residents.  We were entertained by the Riverview Chorale who sang a beautifully and one song in particular entitled “I need you to survive.” ( “I Need You To Survive” by Hezekiah Walker ) Cheryl was surrounded by family, friends and esteemed colleagues who are passionate about providing the best healthcare possible.  Here are some pictures from a fun evening.  Congratulations Dr. Cheryl Gibson Fountain!  I am so proud to have you as a friend. 

Photos below include: 

Nancy Combs – Director, Community Health, Henry Ford Health System
Sharon Milberger – Interim Director, Center for Health Promotion & Disease Prevention, HFHS
Cheryl Abaloz – Executive Assistant to Dr. Kimberlydawn Wisdom, Vice President of Community Health, Education & Wellness, HFHS; and Michigan Surgeon General
Dr. Kimberlydawn Wisdom – SDOM,  Vice President of Community Health, Education & Wellness, HFHS; and Michigan Surgeon General   
Lisa Mason – Manager – “Save Lives, Save Dollars”, Greater Detroit Area Health Council
Tiffany Baker – Public Relations Specialist, HAP
Cynthia Taueg’ – Vice President Community Health, St. John Providence Hospital
Deborah Whiting – Health Center Administrator, Detroit Community Health Connection

Below photo: I feel like it’s Prom Night!

Barb all dressed up! 

Below Photo: Barb Flis, Nancy Combs, Sharon Milberger & Cheryl Abaloz

Barb Flis, Nancy Combs, Sharon Milberger & Cheryl Abaloz

Below photo: Tiffany Baker, Nancy Combs & Barb Flis
Tiffany Baker, Nancy Combs & Barb Flis

Below photo: Nancy Combs, Dr. Kimberlydawn Wisdom & Barb Flis

Nancy Combs, Dr. Kimberlydawn Wisdom & Barb Flis

Below photo: Nancy Combs, Dr. Cheryl Gibson Fountain & Barb Flis

Nancy Combs, Dr. Cheryl Gibson Fountain & Barb Flis 

Below photo: Deborah Whiting, Barb Flis, Senator Martha G. Scott & Nancy Comb

Deborah Whiting, Barb Flis, Senator Martha G. Scott & Nancy Combs Below photo: Barb Flis, Lisa Mason & Cynthia Taueg’ Barb Flis, Lisa Mason & Cynthia Taueg'

 

Join my Call to Action for Parents!  Let’s work together to raise healthier kids!

**This information has been shared by Barb Flis, mother of two and creator of Parent Action for Healthy Kids.

Have Faith! We Can Build A Healthier Tomorrow.

Posted May 21st, 2010

I had a great trip to D.C.  I visited museums, the World War II, Vietnam, Korean & FDR memorials, viewed the nations’ capitol from the top of the Washington Monument, and saw President Obama speak at the memorial for slain police officers on the lawn of the Capitol.    The tour of the White House and Capitol arranged by Congressman Gary Peters was inspiring.  Being surrounded by such rich history, I was reminded that our country was built on the strength and perserverence of its people.  I have a renewed faith in our ability to make this country a healthier place for our children to learn and thrive.   Sign up for my call to action for parents — with one voice, we can leave a legacy of good health for our children. 

Below photo: Portrait Monument to the pioneers of the Woman Suffrage Movement – Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, and of course, Barb Flis! 🙂

Portrait Monument to the pioneers of the Woman Suffrage Movement - Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott & Barb Flis

Below photo: Place where Lincoln’s desk was in the Capitol

Place where Lincoln's desk was in the Capitol

Below photo: Me and Laura, the intern of Congressman Gary Peters

Me and Laura, Congressman Peter's Intern

Below photo: President Obama speaking at a memorial for slain officers on the Capitol lawn

President Obama speaking at a memorial for slain officers on the Capitol lawn

Thinking About The Amazing People I Met In D.C.

Posted May 7th, 2010

As I mentioned in my blog on April 13, I was honored to be one of only 10 people invited to Washington D.C. to provide input in developing the First Lady’s Let’s Move initiative to end childhood obesity in a generation. I was the only person at the table representing the parents’ voice.

I now have a few photos of this meeting and some of the amazing people that I met.

This is Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary, Health & Human Services as she announced community grants.

Kathleen_Sebelius

Kathleen_Sebelius

 

Let’s Move meeting

Left to right, Leslie Bushara, Children’s Museum of Manhattan, Annette Ferebee, American Public Health Association, Stephanie Ferguston, International Food Information Council.  

Leslie_Bushara_Childrens_Museum_of_Manhattan_Annette_Ferebee_American_Public_Health_Association_Stephanie_Ferguston_International_Food_Information_Council

 

Left to right, Barb Flis, Parent Action for Healthy Kids, Shelley Frazier, Healthy Native Communities Partnership, Lori Kaplan, Latin American Youth Center and Annette Ferebee, American Public Health Association

Barb_Flis_PAFHK_Shelley_Frazier_Healthy_Native_Communities_Partnership_Lori_Kaplan_Latin_American_Youth_Center_and_Annette_Ferebee_American_Public_Health_Association

 

Now I’m back from D.C. and taking this opportunity to launch my own urgent Call to Action for parents! Have you Signed Up yet? This just can’t be the first generation where the life span of our children is shorter than their parents! Let’s make things better for our children today and for the next generation.

 

You Won’t Believe These Sugar Stacks

Posted May 6th, 2010

Wonder how much sugar you and your family are getting from foods and beverages?  This web site gives good information and a great visual of the amount of sugar in our foods and beverages.  Eliminating a couple of the highest sugar items from our families diet will have big health benefits now and in the future.    www.sugarstacks.com

 

Sugarstacks.com

 

This information has been shared by Barb Flis, mother of two and creator of Parent Action For Healthy Kids.

Michgian Healthy School Environment Awards

Posted May 3rd, 2010

It was an honor to once again emcee the Healthy School Environment Awards with my dear friend and colleague and Michigan’s Surgeon General, Dr. Kimberly-Dawn Wisdom.  Dr. Wisdom recognized 77 schools with a third of those schools taking first place.  These schools made incredible changes to make their schools a healthier place for students to learn.  You can read their success stories by going to www.mihealthtools.org and select “Healthy Schools, Healthy Students.” 

Dr. Wisdom is also leading the way with her Generation With Promise schools, many of whom were receipients of the Healthy School Environment Awards. 

It was a fun day to celebrate the efforts of schools and families on behalf of the health of children.

Here I am pictued with Paul Yettaw, Food Service Director at Lakeview School District near Battle Creek, Michigan, and Dr. Wisdom.

Dr. Kimberly- Dawn Wisdom, Barb Flis, and Paul Yettaw, Food Service Director at Lakeview School District near Battle Creek, Michigan.

Here I am pictured with Barbara Blum and Deb Grischke.  These are two high energy woman giving their all to help the Generation With Promise schools to reach their goal of healthy eating and increased phsyical activity for all students.  

Here I am with Barbara Blum and Deb Grischke, two high energy woman giving their all to help the Generation With Promise schools.

 

Have you joined my Call to Action?

Great Things Are Happening In Michigan

Posted April 28th, 2010

Monday I was honored to be invited to speak to the Farmington PTA Council in Farmington, Michigan about joining my Call to Action for parents!  More than 30 parent leaders are now eager to sign on and start sharing stories on their efforts to improve healthy eating and physical activity for children.  And as if that is not enough, these tireless volunteers agreed to step up and spread the word to parents throughout their school community.  Great things are happening in my own backyard!  Thanks Farmington PTA Council — you are awesome!

Click here to join my Call to Action then start sharing your stories on our blog and facebook page.

Farmington, MI PTAFarmington, MI PTA

The More You Give, The More You Get

Posted April 27th, 2010

It was raining and cold outside last Sunday, but at the Michigan PTA Conference the smiles from parent leaders who work tirelessly on behalf of children brightened the room.  Here I am pictured with Patrice Taylor from MacArthur PTA.  Patrice is a great advocate for her child and wants to do more to help all children in her school be mentally fit and ready to learn. 

PTA is where I got started and so it was an honor to address the delegates and reflect back to them the difference they are making on behalf of children.  They were fired up about my Let’s Move Call to Action for Parents!  With the Michigan PTA leaders on board, we are definitely moving forward! For more information about my Call to Action for Parents visit www.parentactionforhealthykids.org. For more information about Michigan PTA visit www.michiganpta.org. 

Picture of me with PTA parent Patrice Taylor from MacArthur PTAKeynote Speaker - Michigan PTA Conference

Working to Implement Coordinated School Health Programs

I just returned from the “MICHIANA” Leadership Institute where we are working with 17 school districts from Michigan and Indiana to help them implement Coordinated School Health Programs in their schools.  We had two new members join the institute — and they are parents!  Yeah!  Here we have Kelly Hurley and Teresa Drouillard from Ida, Michigan.  They are going back to their schools ready to roll up their sleeves and work with the other team members to make the entire school district a healthy place for children to learn.

Click here for more information about the “MICHIANA” Leadership Institute.

 

 

This information has been shared by Barb Flis, mother of two and creator of Parent Action For Healthy Kids.

Are You Ready, Parents? Join My Urgent Call To Action To End Childhood Obesity

Posted April 13th, 2010

I was honored to be one of only 10 people invited to Washington D.C. to provide input in developing the First Lady’s Let’s Move initiative to end childhood obesity in a generation. I was the only person at the table representing the parents’ voice. Now, I’m back from D.C. and taking this opportunity to launch a Call to Action for parents. The urgency of knowing that if our children don’t start to eat better and be active every day, their life span will be shorter than their parents, begs for a grass-roots effort. I know parents can and will step up and use their fear to fuel the passion it will take to make things better for our children today and for the next generation.

The message I took away from the D.C. meeting was two-fold; reducing childhood obesity within a generation is a hefty goal that will require a cultural shift in the way Americans view eating and physical activity; and the top level people I met with are as overwhelmed as the rest of the health advocates by the enormity of it all.

Reality check! Isn’t taking on childhood obesity a pretty lofty goal for a mom?

I’m sticking with my area of expertise – the parents! I am a parent and I have been working with parents as a volunteer and a professional for 25 years. Parents are continually blamed for everything that goes wrong with children. In this case everyone is culpable – home, school, community, business and yes, even government. I know, we as parents can and will be accountable for our part. Now is the time for a Call to Action for parents. With one strong united voice, we can make others accountable for this as well.

Can I do it?

I have worked with parents who have done remarkable things to improve eating and physical activity for children. It is time to highlight the good things parents are doing and unite their voices. The White House received 2500 comments on the Let’s Move web site. I’m certain I will hear from more than 2500 parents who want to unite and force change.

Some naysayers may think I am an “ant trying to move a rubber tree plant”, but those who know me, understand that there is more here than “high hopes.” I am no stranger to taking on parent initiatives. In 2005, I led a sex education parent initiative for Michigan’s Governor Jennifer Granholm and I am known among high levels of state and federal government as the “voice of parents.” This call to action is one you will want to join because, as I always say, “if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!”

Join My Call to Action: Visit www.parentactionforhealthykids.org and become a Parent Champion on behalf of healthier children and support the Let’s Move initiative. Together lets roll up our sleeves, get to work, and create the kind of change that will leave a legacy of good health for our children because when we know better, we do better.

 

**This information has been shared by Barb Flis, mother of two and creator of Parent Action for Healthy Kids.

 

 

Why Parents Matter!

Why parents matter!  Yesterday I spoke to future health and physical education teachers at Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Michigan.  Most of these students were starry eyed and eager to began their careers.  One student, Betsy, a middle aged woman was a little less starry eyed.  You see Betsy has a physical education degree and has taught physical education in a Michigan School district for many years.  She returned to college to get a health education degree because she lost her job when her school district eliminated physical education class because of budget restraints.  As if this story isn’t sad enough the real tragedy is that in this district there is an extremely high obesity rate among students.  What a tragedy!  This is why parents matter!  Teachers are powerless to reverse a decision as devastating as this.  I’m am fairly certain that parents in this school district are unaware of the importance of physical education to the physical, social and emotional well-being of students.  Not to mention that when kids are physically active, they learn better.  Ironically, the topic I spoke to the CMU students about today was the importance of engaging parents on what health and physical education teachers do in the classroom so that parents can speak up when vital programs are cut.  Betsy supports the First Lady’s Let’s Move campaign but is frustrated because she is just one voice.  Betsy joined Parent Action for Healthy Kids Call to Action so that she can join others to make our voice stronger for change.

 

**This information has been brought to you by Barb Flis, mother of two and creator of Parent Action For Healthy Kids.

I’m back from D.C. with a Call To Action!

Posted March 23rd, 2010

What a great meeting with representatives from the First Lady’s Let’s Move initiative. I along with nine other organizations from around the country shared our expertise on ways to assist families in making healthy food choices and increasing physical activity. Making the choice to eat healthy and move more is easy; but actually making it a part of our daily life will be an enormous challenge. My experience in working with parents tells me that many are already making healthier choices. I will be calling all Parent Champions to help in this effort. Please stay tuned to this blog and my Facebook and Twitter pages for exciting details!

I’m Heading To Washington D.C. Tomorrow!

Posted March 18th, 2010

As I posted a couple weeks ago, First Lady Michelle Obama has announced an ambitious national goal to reduce the rate of childhood obesity within a generation.  Her initiative, Let’s Move, is a National Campaign designed to specifically to address this issue.  I am personally very excited because “yours truly” has been invited to share my experience and expertise towards this endeavor.  Stay tuned!! I’ll be providing updates within the next few days!

The Federal Trade Commission publishes an online guide called, Chatting With Kids About Being Online

Posted January 26th, 2010

Chatting With Kids About Being Online has some great information and gives adults practical tips on how to talk to pre-teens, tweens, and teenagers about navigating the internet in a safe and responsible manner.   Kids and parents have many ways of socializing and communicating online, but they come with certain risks (like “sexting & cyberbullying”).  This guide encourages parents to reduce the risks by talking to kids about how they communicate – online and off – and helping kids engage in conduct they can be proud of. This guide covers what parents need to know, where to go for more information, and issues to raise with kids about living their lives online.

If you go to the FTC website at, http://bulkorder.ftc.gov/, you can order one or multiple copies of this guide (in English or Spanish) and have it shipped to you all free of charge.  This document is public information and can also be downloaded and distributed anywhere.  I would encourage parents to utilize this guide and share it with their friends. 

 

**This information has been shared with you by Barb Flis, mother of two and creator of Parent Action for Healthy Kids.

AttachmentSize Chatting_with_Kids_about_being_online.pdf506.48 KB

Something worth tuning into: “The Pregnancy Pact” on Lifetime, which is inspired by a true story. This program airs on January 23rd at 9pm ET.

Sidney Bloom, an online-magazine journalist, returns to her hometown to investigate the sudden spike in teenage pregnancies at her old high school. Almost immediately, she comes up against Lorraine Dougan (Nancy Travis), the head of the local conservative values group and mother of Sara, a newly pregnant 15-year-old. Meanwhile, the school nurse tries to convince the school to provide contraception to students to address the pregnancy epidemic but is met with great opposition from the school and community. As the number of pregnant girls climbs to 18, a media firestorm erupts when Time magazine reports that the rise in the number of pregnancies at the school is the result of a “pregnancy pact.” As the mystery unfolds about whether or not “the pact” is real, Sidney soon realizes that all of the attention is disguising the much larger issues that are at the core of the story.

 

**This information has been shared with you by Barb Flis, mother of two and creator of Parent Action for Healthy Kids.

Good News – Fewer US Teens Report Being Sexually Active

Posted January 18th, 2010

According to a Reuters report from May 2009, a new analysis of data from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth for 1992, 1997, and 2002 finds a “dramatic” drop in the percentage of US teens having sex between 1992 and 2002, concurrent with a noticeable rise in contraceptive use by those who were sexually active. But very recent increases in teen pregnancy, after more than a decade-long decline, indicate that improving teens’ reproductive health remains a challenge.

“We need to continue to focus on this issue into the future to help reduce high rates of teen childbirth in the US, especially since things are trending in the opposite direction right now,” said study author Dr. Jennifer Manlove of Washington, D.C.-based Child Trends.

The aim of the study was to investigate the role of family environment, individual characteristics, and relationship types in teen sexual behavior.

According to the researchers, the positive trends – the proportion of sexually experienced 15- to 19-year-olds dropped from 56 percent of girls and 61 percent of boys in 1992, to 47 percent of girls and 46 percent of boys in 2002 – were directly linked to increasing levels of education among parents and a decline in the percentage of teens who had been born to teen mothers.

Other positive trends the analysis showed were an increase in reported contraceptive use at first sex, up from 62 percent of girls and 65 percent of boys in 1992 to 72 percent of girls and 78 percent of boys in 2002. In addition, the data indicated an increasing age at first sex.

The study found no evidence to validate media stories of teens “hooking up” more. “Based on these data we did not see any increases in casual sex,” said Manlove.

The analysis points to what parents can do to help delay teen sex and stop teen pregnancy, the researchers said. While “the sex talk” is important, overall good parent-teen communication is essential, said Manlove. Parents should be clear about their expectations for their teens and encourage them to have goals and aspirations for the future, she said. “I think there’s a lot parents can do,” she said.

The study, “Trends in Sexual Experience, Contraceptive Use, and Teenage Childbearing: 1992-2002,” was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health (2009;44(5):413-423).

 

**This information has been shared with you by Barb Flis, mother of two and creator of Parent Action for Healthy Kids.