UGA Public Health Dean invited to Governor’s Advisory Council on Childhood Obesity

Dr. Phillip L. Williams, dean of the University of Georgia’s College of Public Health, has accepted an invitation by Gov. Nathan Deal to help guide Georgia’s efforts to fight childhood obesity around the state as a part of the newly formed Governor’s Advisory Council on Childhood Obesity.

The council will advise Gov. Deal on the best ways to reduce childhood obesity and overweight, which affects 43 percent of children in Georgia. Council members also will champion the governor’s Georgia SHAPE initiative by making childhood obesity a priority for all business, academic and philanthropic groups and leaders.

“I am honored to be included among the exceptional group of experts the Governor has brought together to strengthen state efforts to decrease obesity in Georgia’s young people,” Williams said. “I look forward to leveraging UGA’s assets and expertise in obesity research, instruction and outreach to address this important public health issue.”

In addition to Williams, the 16-member council includes Gov. Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, former U.S. Surgeon General and CDC Director Dr. David Satcher, and other leaders from the fields of public and private health, education, business and nutrition.  Dr. Rob Shreiner, executive medical director of The Southeast Permanente Medical Group, Inc., will serve alongside Gov. Deal as the committee’s elected co-chair for the first year.

The council’s main goal is to move Georgia from having one of the worst rates in the U.S. for childhood obesity to the best rate, an effort that will ultimately ensure the long-term competitiveness and viability of Georgia’s future, said Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health.

“Obesity is the state’s number one health challenge and we are extremely grateful for the dedication of this diverse group of people to making the monumental changes needed to improve the health of Georgia’s children,” said Fitzgerald, who also serves on the council.

Williams has served as the dean of the College of Public Health since its founding in 2005 and holds the Georgia Power Professorship of Environmental Health Science in the College’s Department of Environmental Health Science.  Under Williams’ leadership, the College was awarded full accreditation in June 2009; has more than doubled its enrollment with more than 900 current students; graduated more than 690 doctoral, master’s and undergraduate students; and is preparing to move to the UGA Health Sciences Campus located at the former U.S. Naval Supply School site.  He was appointed as an inaugural member of the Georgia Board of Public Health in 2011.

The College of Public Health is a strong supporter of the UGS’s campus-wide obesity initiative. In 2012, the UGA College of Public Health won a five-year, $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture to support a community-based childhood obesity prevention program in Colquitt County, which is located in southwest Georgia. More recently in 2013, the college’s Georgia Public Health Training Center, funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration, hosted four strategic planning sessions for key stakeholders in Gov. Deal’s SHAPE initiative to develop the State’s roadmap to prevent and reduce childhood obesity in Georgia.  In addition, GPHTC funds brought together faculty from the public health college’s Department of Health Promotion and the College of Education’s Department of Kinesiology to develop a series of online learning modules for childhood obesity prevention.

Georgia was once known as the state with the second highest rate of childhood obesity in the U.S. But in April, government statistics showed a 5 percent decrease in the state’s childhood obesity rate, dropping Georgia to the 17th spot on the list.

Georgia SHAPE is working to bring those rates even lower. Since 2011, the governor’s program has been working with children, parents and schools to increase physical activity and promote healthy, active lifestyles around the state. In 2013, SHAPE launched Power Up for 30, a voluntary program that encourages elementary schools around Georgia to add an extra 30 minutes of physical activity into each school day. The program also introduced the FitnessGram to Georgia schools, a tool that evaluates five different areas of health-related fitness.

For more information about Georgia SHAPE, visit

The members of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Childhood Obesity are:

  • Nathan Deal, Governor, State of Georgia
  • Casey Cagle, Lieutenant Governor, State of Georgia
  • Brenda Fitzgerald, MD, Commissioner, Georgia Department of Public Health
  • Barbara Hampton, CPA, Chairman, State Board of Education
  • Rob Shreiner, MD, Executive Medical Director, The Southeast Permanente Medical Group, Inc.,
  • Phillip L. Williams, PhD, Dean, College of Public Health, University of Georgia
  • David Satcher, MD, PhD, Director, Satcher Health Leadership Institute and Center of Excellence on Health Disparities, Morehouse School of Medicine
  • Teya Ryan, President and Executive Director, Georgia Public Broadcasting
  • John Bare, Vice President, Arthur M. Blank Foundation
  • Jim Clark, President and CEO, Boys & Girls Club of America
  • Ron Shipman, Vice President, Environmental Affairs, Georgia Power
  • Clyde Tuggle, Senior Vice President, Chief Public Affairs and Communications Officer, The Coca-Cola Company
  • John Alpers, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Royal Food Service
  • Tom Hensley, President, Fieldale Farms Corporation
  • Donna Hyland, President and CEO of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
  • Evelyn Johnson, MD, Vice President, Georgia Chapter, American Association of Pediatrics

– Rebecca Ayer

Posted September 23, 2013.

Additional coverage at the Georgia Department of Public Health.