Anita Rao, Pearland, Texas

Anita is an active 17-year-old student from Pearland, Texas who attends the residential Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science (TAMS) in Denton, TX. She is passionate about the issue of poor sleep hygiene in teens and its impact on their health. Anita first became aware of the issue while conducting an award-winning science fair project for school. Taking the results of her project as a call to action, Anita founded Project SIESTA (Students Involved in the Education about Sleep hygiene for Teen Adolescents) in 2009 to educate adolescents about the importance of sleep hygiene.

Inspired by First Lady Michelle Obama, Anita started ChOOSE HEALTH in 2010, an acronym for Childhood Obesity Overcome by Sleep Education, Healthy Eating, and Aerobically Loving The Heart. Anita’s work led her to be selected as the Texas Grand Champion in the Community Problem Solving Competition and provided her many opportunities to speak about her work to students and teachers in schools across the country. In January 2012, Anita was invited to Palm Springs, California for the Clinton Foundation's Health Matters Conference to be on a panel, moderated by Chelsea Clinton, along with several prestigious members of the health community.

In July 2012, Anita had her classical Indian dance debut before an audience of over 500 in Houston. She used this as a vehicle to raise awareness and over $1000 for the Alliance. Since then Anita has focused on expanding her outreach activity in her new school by leveraging the different clubs and associations at TAMS, as well as sharing her story to over 100 TAMS students at an event called TAMS Talks. In the coming years, Anita plans to educate high school students within the TAMS program, students in neighboring areas, and even university students who live on the UNT campus by using the tools and guidance of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

What motivated you to join the Youth Advisory Board?

While working on expanding the scope of my ChOOSE HEALTH project, I contacted both Let’s Move and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation to find ways to work together. I became aware of the Youth Advisory Board and was excited to find other kids like me. I felt it would be a great forum for me to learn from others, and also to share my experiences in the battle against childhood obesity.

Why is it important that youth have a voice in the fight against childhood obesity?

The magic in youth speaking to youth is that both parties can relate to each other. It is clear that young people face similar problems and have similar mindsets, so why not use that to one’s advantage and do something about it? Kids can probably translate the message of healthy living to other kids much more efficiently than an adult or medical professional. It would make sense that if kids are spreading the message, the way to acquire healthy habits can be discussed in a fun, relatable and contemporary manner. Since our nation is facing an epidemic of childhood obesity, it is important for children to take a stand!

What difference do you hope to make during your time on the Youth Advisory Board?

I want to continue the great work that the Youth Advisory Board has done to date, and use many of the tools that have been developed to spread the message of healthy living in my community. I also want to emphasize another important component of healthy living— sleep. That is often overlooked when we exclusively focus on diet and exercise in the battle against childhood obesity.



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