Sandy Hassink

The community’s role in the childhood obesity epidemic

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About Sandy Hassink

Pediatrician Sandy Hassink has been a champion for reducing childhood obesity and the stigmas associated with it for over 30 years. After noticing an increase in overweight patients in the 1980’s, Sandy developed a holistic treatment regimen with a team of physiologists, nutritionists, and nurses—a model that eventually caught on around hospitals in the US. In 2015, Sandy served as President of the American Academy of Pediatrics, where she advocated for a strong foundation of nutrition at home, school, and in communities. She has contributed to numerous peer reviewed publications and is the author of the award winning book, A Parent's Guide to Childhood Obesity: A Roadmap to Health. Sandy founded and directed the Nemours Weight Management Clinic and headed the Nemours Obesity Initiative at Nemours/Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington DE. She currently is the Medical Director for the American Academy of Pediatrics Institute for Healthy Childhood Weight.

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About This Talk

In the 1980s, Sandy Hassink was working in a pediatric clinic when more and more young people with obesity started coming to her for help. At the time, what is now known as the childhood obesity epidemic didn’t have a name, and childhood obesity wasn’t on the radar of pediatric training programs. Sandy tried to implement the “eat less, exercise more” approach with her young patients, but it wasn’t working, and she didn’t know why.

Without any established tools or protocols in place to help these kids, Dr. Hassink found herself taking a step back from her role as the “expert” and instead relying on her patients and their families for deeper insight into the complex issues surrounding their food intake and exercise behaviors. She began to see with overwhelming clarity that the community and environmental factors affecting a child’s diet and physical activity—from the amount of fresh food that was available to them to the opportunities they had for safe play outside—were key influencers in the childhood obesity epidemic. Check out Sandy’s 2017 TEDMED talk to learn more about her findings and why she believes "all the willpower in the world couldn’t overcome an obesity-causing environment.

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