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DHSS Press Release

Josette Manning, Secretary
DPH Media Relations Coordinator Contact:
Laura Matusheski

Date: June 6, 2024


Olympic athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee delivered a motivational keynote address

DOVER, Del. (June 6, 2024) - The Delaware Division of Public Health's (DPH) Physical Activity, Nutrition, and Obesity Prevention (PANO) Program hosted its second annual Advancing Healthy Lifestyles Conference today. At Delaware State University's (DSU) Martin Luther King Jr. Conference Center, approximately 300 participants came together to learn, discuss, network, and share best practices and strategies to improve health equity statewide. With a shared mission of improving Delawareans' health, well-being, and quality of life, participants explored a wide range of topics relating to the conference theme, Engaging Communities to Live Healthy Lifestyles.

Throughout the day, participants were inspired by remarks from local dignitaries and healthy lifestyle advocates, including Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long, DPH Director Steven Blessing, DSU President Tony Allen, PhD, and keynote presenter and six-time Olympic champion Jackie Joyner-Kersee. In addition to plenary sessions, participants engaged in concurrent breakout sessions offering discussions on the topics of:

The Advancing Healthy Lifestyles Conference was originally created to build on Governor John Carney's policy objectives for launching a statewide effort to reduce the impact of obesity and chronic disease, and to evaluate and implement the recommendations of the Delaware Cancer Consortium. The 2024 conference goals included:

Statistics indicate that Delawareans need to improve their diet and exercise to maintain a healthy lifestyle. According to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), obesity among Delaware adults rose from 33.9% in 2021 to 37.9% in 2022. In 2022, 71.8% of Delaware adults were obese or overweight. Among Delaware adults in 2022, 23.5% were not physically active, 20.5% did not consume vegetables, and 39.7% did not consume fruit. America's Health Rankings 2023 Annual Report shows that 11.5% of Delawareans are food insecure and unable to provide adequate food for one or more household members due to lack of resources.

"We were thrilled to see such a great mix of returning people and newcomers for the second year of our Advancing Healthy Lifestyles Conference," said Delaware Department of Health and Social Services Cabinet Secretary Josette Manning. "Each person who participated today made a commitment to tackle the challenges of obesity, inadequate nutrition, lack of physical activity, and chronic disease. Together, we can drive change and ensure every Delawarean is on a path to a better quality of life for themselves and the generations that follow."

The day's formal sessions concluded with the Overcomers Panel: Being Your Best Self that shared real-life journeys demonstrating the power of individuals who overcame hurdles and put healthier lifestyle practices into place to achieve a better quality of life. Panelist "DJHanDMan" Darrell McDonald, diagnosed with cerebral palsy at age 2, spoke about his advocacy for people with access and functional needs to move freely in the community and live their best lives.

Conference participants had the opportunity to network and explore information tables offering additional resources to help them in their outreach throughout the year.

Through the Advancing Healthy Lifestyles Coalition, PANO is advancing its mission by increasing awareness (the most pressing need related to health equity), focusing on mental health and wellness, and increasing community engagement. PANO sponsored and organized the 2024 Advancing Healthy Lifestyles Conference.

The conference was co-sponsored by Delaware State University, Delaware Public Health Association's Delaware Academy of Medicine, Delaware First Health, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Delaware chapters Zeta Omega, Epsilon Iota Omega, Sigma Zeta Omega, Alpha Alpha Mu Omega, and Alpha Alpha Tau Omega; Delaware Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, Bayhealth, ChristianaCare, the YMCA of Delaware, and AmeriHealth Caritas of Delaware.

For more information on PANO's Advancing Healthy Lifestyles initiative, visit


Anyone who is deaf, hard of hearing, Deaf-Blind or speech disabled can contact DPH by dialing 711 first using specialized devices (i.e. TTY, TeleBraille, voice devices). The 711 service is free and to learn more about how it works, please visit

DPH, a division of DHSS, urges Delawareans to make healthier choices with the 5-2-1 Almost None campaign: eat 5 or more fruits and vegetables each day, have no more than 2 hours of recreational screen time each day (includes TV, computer, gaming), get 1 or more hours of physical activity each day, and drink almost no sugary beverages.

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.