Communities Ramp Up Efforts to Address Childhood Obesity

Twelve communities of color and indigenous nations receive $3 million to improve access to healthy foods and safe places to play.

    • May 31, 2011

Twelve community advocacy organizations across the country have been awarded grants totaling $3 million from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to create healthier communities in neighborhoods struggling to access healthy foods and safe places to play.

Each of the 12 organizations will receive up to $250,000 over three years through Communities Creating Healthy Environments (CCHE), an RWJF national program that helps advance the Foundation’s efforts to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic by 2015.

The organizations are leaders on a wide range of social justice issues, including workers’ rights, education and climate change. Groups funded through the CCHE program will leverage their organizing savvy to build public support for policy changes that will help families lead healthier lives.

For instance, in Roxbury, Mass., Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE) is organizing local residents to ensure that park space remains public and accessible to young people. In Fort Yukon, Alaska, the 11 nations represented in the Council of Athabascan Tribal Governments are working together to develop policies to protect access to local, wild food sources and reduce reliance on unhealthy packaged foods. La Unión de Pueblo Entero (LUPE), located in Texas near the Mexican border, will mobilize residents of colonias—low-income, unincorporated communities with limited public infrastructure—to advocate for increased funding for roads and parks so that kids can safely walk and play.

“If we are serious about addressing childhood obesity, then we have to support work to address the conditions that helped create these problems in the first place, such as neighborhoods that don’t have healthy, affordable foods or where it isn’t safe to walk around or play outside,” said Makani Themba-Nixon, CCHE director. “Our program supports local organizations working to engage residents in the policy-making processes that shape their quality of life.”

The 12 organizations join 10 others that began their work under the CCHE program in 2009. The effort now includes 22 groups working in 15 states across the country. CCHE will help the organizations develop effective interventions to address root causes of childhood obesity in their communities. RWJF has committed $15 million to the program over a five-year span.

“These groups provide a panoramic, multicultural view of how inequalities in access to healthy foods and safe places to play affect communities across the country, and they offer local, on-the-ground solutions,” said Dwayne C. Proctor, director of RWJF’s childhood obesity team.

Communities Creating Healthy Environments is an important part of the Foundation’s efforts to ensure that all families have opportunities to eat well and be active—especially in communities that are at highest risk for childhood obesity.”

For the full list of organizations and additional information about Communities Creating Healthy Environments, please visit www.ccheonline.org

About Communities Creating Healthier Environments

Communities Creating Healthy Environments is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that sets out to prevent childhood obesity by increasing access to healthy foods and safe places to play in communities of color. The program will advance RWJF’s efforts to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic by 2015 by supporting diverse, community-based organizations and federally charted tribal nations in the development and implementation of effective, culturally competent policy initiatives to address the root causes of childhood obesity locally.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change.