Friday, June 18, 2010 marked a momentous day for Nationwide Children’s Hospital with back-to-back visits by President Barack Obama and Ohio Governor Ted Strickland. Both visits highlighted the hospital’s growth and leadership – a testament to its commitment to central Ohio’s children, caring for them not just inside, but beyond its four walls.
The excitement began as Air Force One was spotted over Columbus’ skyline just before noon Friday. President Obama touched down at Columbus International Airport greeted by Gov. Strickland and Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, and escorted by motorcade to the intersection of Livingston and Parsons Avenues. There, with Nationwide Children’s 12-story new main hospital in the background, the President gave his remarks.
He came to Columbus to mark a milestone on the road to recovery: the 10,000th project launched under the Recovery Act.
President Obama described the project, “A lot of people came together to make this day possible – business and government, grassroots organizations, ordinary citizens who are committed to this city’s future. And what you’re starting here is more than just a project to repair a road – it’s a partnership to transform a community.”
The President went on to describe Nationwide Children’s role in that partnership, “The hospital is expanding its operations to take even better care of more people, more children, here in Columbus and throughout Ohio, which means they’re hiring more people. So together (with the city’s Livingston/Parsons roadway project), you’re creating more than 2,300 new jobs and sending a powerful message that this neighborhood will soon be a place where more families can thrive, more businesses can prosper, economic development that’s being sparked today is going to continue into the future.”
He continued, “Because the hospital is now growing, that means they’re putting money back into the neighborhood for housing and other facilities so that the entire community starts rebuilding. Ultimately, that’s the purpose of the Recovery Act.”
After about 15 minutes of comments, the President turned to shake hands with construction workers, government officials and Nationwide Children’s CEO, Steve Allen, MD.
“Thank you for the good work you’re doing … you’ve got one of the best hospitals in the country,” President Obama said to Dr. Allen.
Shortly after the exchange, and with cheers from a nearby crowd, the wheels of Air Force One were up and the President was on his way back to Washington, D.C.
Dr. Allen then accompanied Gov. Strickland walking from the President’s event along Livingston Park to the hospital for the Governor’s bill signing of the Healthy Choices for Healthy Children legislation. Once inside the hospital’s main lobby, they greeted patients and their families, staff and government leaders.
Notable government officials included co-sponsors of the bill, Senator Kevin Coughlin (R-Cuyahoga Falls), Senator Eric H. Kearney (D-Cincinnati), and Representative John Patrick Carney (D-Columbus). Representative Tracy Heard, whose district includes Nationwide Children’s Hospital also attended to show her support along with members of the Healthy Choices for Healthy Children Coalition. The Coalition is led by both Dr. Allen and Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove, MD, as co-chairs of the Ohio Business Roundtable Childhood Obesity Task Force.
They came together Friday, June 18 at Nationwide Children’s to witness Gov. Strickland sign into law a bill that will affect all of Ohio’s children.
Recently, First Lady Michelle Obama challenged America to take steps to solve the problem of childhood obesity within a generation. Today, Ohio became the first state to respond following this challenge, making it a national leader on one of the most pressing issues facing kids today.
The bill will improve the nutritional value of foods offered during the regular and extended school day and raise the bar for physical education. It also provides for Body Mass Index (BMI) screenings upon school entry and in the 3rd, 5th and 9th grades, and a pilot program for daily physical activity during the school day.
Dr. Allen said, “The solutions of this bill are flexible, allowing schools and municipalities to be as creative as possible in fighting childhood obesity. With initiatives that increase physical activity, improve nutritional value of school lunches, and provide for real Body Mass Index screenings, this new law will give our kids a fighting chance against fat – and help them avoid becoming the first generation of Ohioans to live shorter lives than their parents.
Both of these visits highlighted the impact that Nationwide Children’s Hospital is having on the welfare and optimal health of not only children in central Ohio, but children across the country.