Fighting for healthier lifestyles in our communities

Shellie Pfohl, '85 UNI aluma, has spent her career advocating for better community health education and promotion programs, especially for youth. A lifelong athlete, Pfohl found her passion for health promotion in UNI's Community Health Education program where she learned to help individuals and their communities live healthier lifestyles.

Her 25-year career has included various positions in leadership, advocacy and policy work with such organizations as HOPSports Inc., Be Active North Carolina, Be Active America, North Carolina's Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Health and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

Whether it was facilitating training in physical activity programs for more than 40,000 teachers, implementing a pre-school physical activity and nutrition program for more than 7,000 childcare centers across North Carolina, or forging partnerships with state, national and international organizations and corporations, Pfohl has made significant contributions in the fight against obesity and promoting community revolution toward healthier lifestyles.

Her most recent career move came approximately three months ago when she was appointed by President Obama as executive director of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports (PCFPS). Her responsibilities include managing the operations of the President's Council, overseeing an advisory committee to the president and the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and leading the council's efforts for First Lady Michelle Obama's national Let's Move! Campaign to address the childhood obesity epidemic.

"My new responsibilities give us an awesome opportunity at the Council to be a catalyst for change and to create healthy lifestyles for children and families, and transform our communities to be more healthy as well," said Pfohl.

Shellie PfohlSome immediate priorities include modernizing the Presidential Youth Fitness Test to introduce innovative activities. A second priority is the promotion of the Presidential Active Lifestyle Awards for individuals 6- to 106-years of age. 

"It's never too late to start an exercise program and these awards allow families, businesses and communities to come together and engage in activities that support healthier lifestyles."

Pfohl will attend UNI's first-ever in the U.S. Global Forum for Physical Education Pedagogy, May 13-14 in Grundy Center, Iowa. National and international leaders in health and physical education will come together to discuss the fight against childhood obesity and the need for education reform in physical education and health.

At the forum Pfohl looks forward to the end goal -- a consensus statement outlining how to move forward with a global education reform agenda in physical education.

Pfohl explains that education reform is more than a K-12 responsibility. "Yes, schools need to have daily quality physical education. However, it's not the responsibility of just the schools to fight childhood obesity and promote healthier lifestyles -- communities, business and industry, transportation, urban planners and many others play a role. If we're building schools without gyms, neighborhoods without sidewalks and roads without bike lanes, we're not helping to move the cause forward."

Her passion for health is evident. Pfohl said, "I believe leadership is key and I mean leadership at all societal levels. We can no longer afford to support unhealthy  lifestyles. If we don't turn the tide on the obesity epidemic our country will be bankrupt. The time for change is now. Never before have we had such a national focus on this issue, and never before have so many individuals and organizations come together to create healthy options for our citizens."