The following is a statement by Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation:
The White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity has presented the president its comprehensive plan for solving the problem of childhood obesity in a generation. This landmark report comes at a critical time in our efforts to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic, providing a clear pathway for government at all levels and the private sector to follow.
The Task Force report is a clarion call for swift action. It must not sit on a shelf. The momentum for reversing the childhood obesity epidemic is higher than ever, and many opportunities to implement the plan’s recommendations are before us now. Collaboration among federal, state and local agencies; schools; the private sector; and many other community partners is critical to success.
The strategies presented in the plan support the whole child—wherever he or she lives, learns and plays. It recognizes the many environments that must be improved to ensure our children can lead healthy lives—from lunch rooms and after-school programs, to grocery stores and local recreation centers.
While the plan offers many strategies, certain themes must be noted. Key recommendations in the report recognize the need to upgrade nutritional standards for all foods served to our children. That means improving food in schools, early child-care programs, after-school programs, at home and elsewhere. The time is now to ensure alignment with the most up-to-date nutrition standards, as recommended by the Institute of Medicine.
The Task Force also prioritizes an increase in physical activity in schools and in after-school programs, recognizing that increased time alone isn’t sufficient and that quality must be strengthened as well. Outside of schools, we have to provide opportunities for kids to be active—that means encouraging biking and walking to school, using school and community facilities after the school day, and increasing access to safe parks and playgrounds.
Finally, the Task Force makes it clear that the private sector has a big role to play—in changing marketing practices, in fast-tracking the implementation of menu labeling, in supporting nutrition education in schools, and in working with the government on front-of-package labeling.
We are pleased to see real benchmarks included in this report—so everyone can measure how we are doing as a nation, what improvements are being made and where we need to go next. This has been a cornerstone of RWJF’s work in communities through the programs we fund and with partners like the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research.
Our goal at RWJF is to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic by 2015. That means we want to see steady declines in obesity prevalence among children ages 6 to 19 by the year 2015, with progress across all racial and ethnic groups tracked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Task Force plan seeks to end childhood obesity in a generation, returning our nation to a childhood obesity rate of 5 percent by 2030. Both goals are ambitious, but it’s clear that both are within reach if we all sustain our commitment to the rapidly growing and well-coordinated movement now before us.
Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A.
President and CEO