Now Viewing: Childhood Obesity

Obesity in America: Are We Turning the Corner?

Sep 4, 2014, 9:18 AM, Posted by John R. Lumpkin

Childhood Obesity West Virginia

What word describes the current state of obesity in the United States?

How about the unexpected: Optimistic.

You might think that would be the least likely descriptor. After all, the annual report The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America, released today by Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), says adult obesity rates went up in six states over last year.

The obesity rate is now at or above 30 percent in 20 states (as high as 35 percent in Mississippi and West Virginia), and not below 21 percent in any. Colorado has the lowest rate at 21.3 percent, which still puts it higher than today’s highest state—Mississippi—was 20 years ago.  The childhood obesity headlines are difficult to swallow as well. As of 2011-2012, nearly one out of three children and teens ages 2 to 19 is overweight or obese. Similar to adults, racial and ethnic disparities persist. And rates are higher still among Black and Latino communities.

But if we look a little deeper, we see a hint of promise on the horizon.

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Living Out Their Salad Days: Shaping Healthier Environments for Kids in the Nation’s Schools

Sep 2, 2014, 10:59 AM, Posted by Susan Dentzer

A school lunchroom full of hundreds of young children, happily slurping up ... salad.

If you’re someone who’s ever struggled to get kids to eat their vegetables, it sounds like an impossible dream.

But this is reality at Anne Frank Elementary School, the largest in Philadelphia, with 1,200 students from kindergarten through fifth grade. Serving salads was the brainchild of Anne Frank principal Mickey Komins, who had the salads brought in from a local high school cafeteria.

Along with the after-school Zumba and kickboxing classes that the school now sponsors for kids, parents, and staff, healthier food offerings are among the innovations that earned Anne Frank an award from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. The Alliance, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grantee, is a nonprofit founded by the American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation to help stem the tide of childhood obesity. It’s at the vanguard of a growing national movement to turn schools into healthier environments, and offer kids fundamental lifelong lessons about maintaining their health.

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Closing the Gap on Child Obesity

May 22, 2014, 9:56 AM, Posted by Susan Dentzer

An elementary school student takes plastic cutlery for the meal he is holding.

Imagine a splashy, big bucks television commercial selling kids on the tantalizing deliciousness of eating ... carrots.          

Or a new course sandwiched into already packed middle-school and high school curricula: “Food Shopping and Cooking for a Healthy Life.”

Sound implausible? Maybe—but then again, such innovations could be a part of what is needed to make more progress in the war on child obesity.

These were some of the suggestions that emerged from a recent conference in Newark, where the Clinton Health Matters Initiative, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Grantmakers in Health sponsored a day-long summit entitled Closing the Gap: Childhood Obesity (and in which I was a participant). You can watch a video of the meeting here.

As RWJF CEO, Risa Lavizzo-Mourey reminded the audience, the Foundation has set a goal of reversing the U.S. child obesity epidemic by 2015—and as that date approaches, she confessed, “I’m getting a little nervous.” (View Risa's remarks.)

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To Address Childhood Obesity, Companies Must Join the Fight

May 7, 2014, 4:38 PM, Posted by Risa Lavizzo-Mourey

Risa Trenton Times cropped Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MPH

We’re seeing signs of promise in the effort to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic in the United States. Overall childhood obesity rates have leveled off—and they’ve even declined in some regions and among some age groups.

But it’s far too early to declare victory, writes RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, in a new post on the professional social networking site LinkedIn. The rate of obesity among U.S. teens, she notes, stands at a “shocking 21 percent, and Hispanic and African-American youth still have higher obesity rates than their white and Asian peers.”

To make more progress, Lavizzo-Mourey says, we need more people and organizations in the fight—particularly the business community.

So what more can be done? On Thursday, May 8, Lavizzo-Mourey and influential leaders from throughout the nation—including many from the business community—met to consider innovative approaches in a forum, “Closing the Gap in Childhood Obesity,” sponsored by RWJF and the Clinton Health Matters Initiative, in collaboration with Grantmakers in Health. The forum focused on developing solutions to the inequities that exist in childhood health and childhood obesity.

Partnering with Business to Create a Healthier Future

Mar 27, 2014, 6:10 PM, Posted by John Lumpkin

Joh Lumpkin at Partnership for a Healthier America

“I want you to join together with the band.”
—Join Together, The Who

I’ve been thinking about this lyric after attending an important health conference in Washington, D.C., earlier this month, focused on strategies and collaborations that can reverse the childhood obesity epidemic in the U.S. The attendees weren’t just your usual health conference suspects—researchers, medical professionals, public health officers, etc. The Building a Healthier Future summit, convened by the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), also offered leaders from the nonprofit, academic, and public sectors the all-too-rare opportunity to swap ideas and strategies with corporate executives.

Now that’s a band.

If you’re thinking that a healthier future and the likes of Pepsico and Del Monte Foods have nothing in common, it is time to revise your thinking. PHA was formed in 2010, at the same time as Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative, to work with the private sector to develop strategies for addressing childhood obesity (RWJF was one of the founding partners).

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Progress, Hope, and Commitment

Feb 28, 2014, 10:55 AM, Posted by Risa Lavizzo-Mourey

Risa Lavizzo-Mourey DC Appearance RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA

Nearly seven years ago, this Foundation made a major commitment to reversing the nation’s childhood obesity epidemic. We had many reasons, but chief among them was the decades of data showing more and more young people in America facing greater challenges to growing up healthy. We, and many others, knew it was an unsustainable path. So we pledged $500 million to reverse the trend, and joined forces with a wide range of partners to address the many different facets that an effort of this magnitude would require. Big challenges require big commitments.

This week has been one of the most exciting in the last seven years. Research published Tuesday shows a major decline in the obesity rate among children ages 2 to 5 over the last eight years. This is a very real sign of progress, because we know that preventing obesity at an early age is likely to help children maintain a healthy weight into adulthood. The significant decline measured by researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention follows progress we’ve started to see over the last 18 months.

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Wouldn't It Be Great if Athletes Were Health Heroes?

Oct 10, 2013, 10:13 AM, Posted by Kathryn Thomas

IMG_2171

When I see top athletes hawking junk foods and sugary beverages, it makes me want to blow a whistle and call a foul. When men and women who are at the peak of their athletic prowess push products that do nothing to contribute to peak performance, our nation’s kids are getting the wrong messages.

A new study by the Rudd Center on Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University shows that the vast majority of foods and beverages touted by top athletes are unhealthy products, like sports drinks, soft drinks, and fast food. It also reveals that adolescents ages 12 to 17 see the most TV ads for foods endorsed by athletes. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Rudd Foundation funded the study, which appears in the November edition of Pediatrics.

So what effect might this have on kids?

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Fighting Childhood Obesity by Design Thinking

Oct 9, 2013, 1:38 PM, Posted by Vanessa Farrell

A smiling student sitting in a classroom, eating an orange during snack time.

Gone are the days when the role of a designer was limited to boosting the aesthetic appeal of a product. Today, Design and design-thinking increasingly play integral roles in the research, development, and implementation of products, processes, services, and strategy. Design is becoming design thinking.

A quick Google search of the definition of design thinking states that “….it is a process for practical, creative resolution of problems or issues that looks for an improved future result. It is the essential ability to combine empathy, creativity and rationality to meet user needs and drive business success.”

That’s the kind of thinking that is needed to successfully tackle childhood obesity prevention—a fundamental issue for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Our stated goal is to reverse the epidemic of childhood obesity in the U.S. by 2015, but we recognize that we can’t achieve this ambitious goal on our own. We need all hands on deck. As we explore potential partners in this effort, designers emerge as a key ally who have not been fully tapped.

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Childhood Obesity Is Everybody's Problem

Aug 9, 2013, 9:59 AM, Posted by Risa Lavizzo-Mourey

Risa Lavizzo-Mourey

Why? Because, aside from the deleterious impact on the health of kids individually, childhood obesity can have an adverse effect on “our economy, our health care system, and our future,” writes RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, in a new blog post on the professional social networking site, LinkedIn.

So what can you do? Quite a bit, Lavizzo-Mourey concludes.

The rate of childhood obesity has been soaring for more than three decades. That has been cause for deep distress, and still is. All the same, she writes, there is new reason for hope, and it is to be found in the findings of an August 6 report by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC).

The report suggests that, for the first time, obesity rates dropped in 18 states and one U.S. territory in recent years for low-income children ages 2 to 4.

The report, while not cause for complacency, suggests that—although childhood obesity is still a major health concern—there are steps we can take to arrest and reverse the epidemic.

“The diverse group of states and communities with declines have instituted a wide range of programs to help families make healthy choices where they live, learn, play, and work—programs that can be adapted and scaled up by other regions,” Lavizzo-Mourey asserts. “All of these communities have one important thing in common—they have made childhood obesity prevention a priority.”

In 2007, the Foundation pledged $500 million to meet a goal of reversing the epidemic by 2015. “We know we can do it,” Lavizzo-Mourey writes, “but we can’t do it alone.”

Another Sign of Progress on Childhood Obesity

Aug 6, 2013, 2:00 PM, Posted by Jim Marks

 A young girl eating an apple.

Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that obesity rates among young children from low-income families are falling in 18 states and one U.S. territory—and rising in only three states. 

What an important sign of progress for all of us working to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic! It’s especially terrific because it builds on recent positive news coming from all across the nation.

Childhood obesity rates are falling in states like West Virginia, Mississippi, New Mexico and California. They’re dropping in big cities like New York and rural areas like Vance and Granville Counties, North Carolina.

Today’s news is of falling obesity rates among children participating in federal health and nutrition programs, such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children program, better known as WIC. These are young children in low-income families. Children who have been at the highest risk for obesity and whose families have had the most limited chances to make healthy choices. So this is huge.

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