AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION and FREDRIKSON & BYRON TEAM UP TO FIGHT CHILDHOOD OBESITY IN MINNESOTA SCHOOLS
From First Lady Michelle Obama to the National Football League’s “Play 60 Challenge,” the fight against childhood obesity is attracting attention everywhere - except in Minnesota’s schools– until now.
As our children get settled back into school, Minnesota’s students physical health will no longer be overlooked. Based on an effective government relations strategy crafted by the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Regional Vice President of Advocacy, Rachel Callanan, and Fredrikson & Byron’s Government Relations team, our schools will soon get an extra boost in the fight against childhood obesity.
In 2003, Minnesota’s state government faced a substantial budget deficit of $4.5 billion. In an effort to save state dollars, statewide standards and accountability for physical education were eliminated by the Governor and Legislature. Without state standards, many schools began to reduce the number of PE classes offered and adopted cheaper, inferior coursework as the childhood obesity epidemic began to gain prominence nationally.
Fast forward to 2008. Minnesota had become only one of three states without statewide physical education standards, and its schools were no longer eligible for millions of dollars in federal PE grant funds. The American Heart Association enlisted the help of Fredrikson & Byron to develop and execute a strategic plan that would reinstate statewide PE standards and enhance physical activity at schools. Together, the AHA and Fredrikson created and then directed a legislative and grassroots strategy, the Healthy Kids Act, that involved recruitment of legislative champions, policy and message development, targeting of key legislators, and regular communication and coordination with stakeholder groups.
The Healthy Kids Act was well received, but it took two years of determined and creative lobbying to move the bill forward. The American Heart Association and Fredrikson successfully passed legislation in the waning minutes of the 2010 legislative session as all other education-based policy was stuck in legislative and political gridlock.
With PE standards now being implemented, the Healthy Kids Act will also:
- Require school districts to post their wellness policies on school web sites;
- Direct the state department of education to track schools’ PE classes and PE graduation requirements, and develop recess guidelines that increase inclusion and physical activity; and
- Reward schools through an incentive-based Healthy Kids Awards Program by motivating students to be more active and healthy throughout the day – in PE and regular classes, recess, and extra-curricular activities.
While work is still to be done to further combat childhood obesity, Fredrikson & Byron wishes to congratulate the American Heart Association for its efforts to make Minnesota a greater place to live.
Kevin P. Goodno, Attorney and Chair
Christina K. Brusven, Attorney
Shepard M. Harris, Senior Government Relations Specialist
Melissa J. Rahn, Senior Government Relations Specialist
Leia Simon, Government Relations Specialist