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What is TEDMED?

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Caroline interviewed two leaders in the field of childhood health and wellness: Melissa Halas-Liang, MA, RD, CDE founder of SuperKids Nutrition and Ernie Medina, DrPH, Co-Founder and CEO of MedPlay Technologies. Both Halas-Liang and Medina are members of the TEDMED Challenge Team panel on childhood obesity.

What if we could get America’s brightest innovators and leaders talking to one another about serious medical problems in America? The big ones. The ones that are so wound up in the fibers of society, it’s hard to know where to start unraveling them. No one person can be an expert in these types of issues because they touch all aspects of life, from biology to economics to psychology. TEDMED’s out to solve them. TEDMED is a virtual community of experts from different fields engaging in an all-star, ongoing show-and-tell. The organization hopes that by bringing together a passionate group of leaders, they can start a discussion that will help Americans truly understand our most challenging medical problems – and take the first step toward solving them.

The core of TEDMED is The Great Challenges Program, which identifies twenty major medical problems from reducing childhood obesity to the impact of stress. For each problem, the organization identified a Challenge Team of experts to discuss the topic and answer questions from the TEDMED community. Anyone who identifies with the problem is encouraged to contribute to the conversation -a doctor, teacher, or Girl Scout troop leader.

There are lots of ways to participate:

1)     Become a TEDMED community member and post comments, ask follow-up questions, and participate in the conversation during TEDMED’s live, web-based sessions on Thursdays

2)     Ask questions via Twitter during live chats. See their live chat page for more information and watch recasts.

3)     Share your opinion on community question boards. TEDMED community members have posted a variety of questions for the Childhood Obesity Team such as “What are the top 10 causes of obesity in children and which ones can be reduced or prevented?” You can view responses from individual Team Members and other commenter’s online ask questions and make comments

4)     Apply to attend the conference.  Every year, the on-line conversations culminate in a 3-½ day conference at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Speakers and artists convey inspirational messages about the power of connections to create positive change

I spoke with Melissa Halas-Liang, MA, RD, CDE, founder of SuperKids Nutrition who is on the team of childhood obesity experts to ask her why she is serving on the TEDMED childhood obesity Challenge Team.

Melissa: I was of course excited to be asked to serve on the panel. I started SuperKids Nutrition in 2006, before childhood obesity was in the daily headlines. I’m passionate about contributing to help solve one of our nation’s biggest health crises.  Knowing of TEDMED’s conference, and the excitement that surrounds it, I knew the team would be great to collaborate with.  There is a public health activist, a medical life specialist, an expert in obesity research and clinical care, a childhood nutrition researcher, a leader in advertising and consumer protection, and a policy expert on the team.

Caroline: What do you hope to accomplish by being on the Challenge Team?

Melissa: Prior to founding SuperKids Nutrition Inc, I was a clinical and research dietitian. I’ve seen all stages of the lifecycle and know it’s critical to start with kids, even more ideal is expecting moms! I wanted to provide real life solutions that are evidence based but concise and tangible. For example with the prezi presentation I created for TEMED, it gives their community another way to receive information.  People and even educators don’t want to be lectured to, they want to be inspired to change, but they also need to see the reality of obesity in a way that’s engaging. I see overweight, obesity and health issues in my neighborhood and practice everyday. It’s heart breaking to know many of these children already have a diet that will increase their risk for cancer, heart disease and diabetes. I want all children to reach their full health potential because it impacts every facet of their lives.

Dr. Ernie Medina, Jr., is also a panelist on the TEDMED “Reducing Childhood Obesity” Challenge Team. He is the Co-founder and CEO of MedPlay Technologies, a wellness program that combines exercise with modern video game technology. Exergaming, the intersection of these two worlds, motivates kids of all ages to get active through play. Their programs offer activities like multiplayer dance systems, motorized climbing walls, and interactive light-up floors.

Caroline : Why did you get involved in TEDMED?

Ernie: I was invited to be part of a project by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation project at a TEDMED conference a couple of years ago.

Caroline: What do you hope to accomplish by being on the Challenge Team?

Ernie: To network and learn from others working in the field of pediatric obesity, and to help promote active gaming (exergaming) as a viable intervention for increasing physical activity in kids–especially our highest risk population of kids. 

Caroline: What does MedPlay Technologies do?

Ernie: Medplay Technologies is focused on researching and utilizing the latest technology that can help with chronic lifestyle-related diseases. Currently, we focus mainly on physical activity and tech, and exergaming in particular, and apply it in our Family Fit program. We also encourage and foster research in this field as well, collaborating with local universities and medical groups. 

Caroline: How did you end up founding the company? What inspired you?

Ernie: Seeing the potential of exergaming back in 1998 was the spark that led to the creation and founding of MedPlay Technologies. When I look at the challenges we have in getting kids—overweight, obese, and physically inactive kids–moving again, I realized that exergaming, and to a larger extent the gamefication of physical activity, (which includes mobile games, mobile apps, etc.) could overcome many, if not most of these challenges. Since these kids are into technology, I’m inspired to use the tech to our advantage.



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About the Author

Caroline is a San Francisco-based registered dietitian, freelance writer, and health blogger who specializes in childhood and family nutrition. Her award-winning blog, Sweet Foodie, features family friendly meals, time saving tips, and food photography.


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