Obesity Prevention in Children: Synergy with the Diabetes Initiative

An RWJF Initiative

Field of Work: Preventing or reducing childhood obesity and consequent diabetes.

Problem Synopsis: Childhood obesity is a critical public health problem in the United States. Today, more than 23 million U.S. children and teenagers, nearly one in three young people, are overweight or obese. One-quarter of children ages 2 to 5 are overweight or obese. Among certain racial and ethnic groups, the rates are still higher. Obese adolescents have up to an 80 percent chance of becoming obese adults. Overweight and obese children are at higher risk for a host of serious, often life-threatening illnesses. Increasing numbers of children are being diagnosed with health problems once considered to be adult ailments, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and gallstones.

Synopsis of the Work: Through a series of synergy grants, staff from the Diabetes Initiative (January 2002 to February 2010), extended its work to preventing or reducing childhood obesity—a disease that heightens the risk of subsequent diabetes. Under Obesity Prevention in Children: Synergy with the Diabetes Initiative (August 2005 to July 2008), four grantees of the Diabetes Initiative received synergy grants to support efforts of schools and communities to increase access to healthy, lower-calorie foods and opportunities for safe, daily physical activity through policy and environmental change in order to prevent obesity among children living in low-income, culturally diverse neighborhoods and communities.

Key Findings/Results

  • The four grantee organizations improved their capacity in seven categories involved in making policy and environmental changes: alliances, organizational capacity, social norms, base of support, impact, environment and policies.

  • They reported a total of 436 specific actions and 69 results involving preparation (such as conducting assessments and making resource requests), promotion (such as increasing awareness of childhood obesity) and program, policy or environmental changes.

  • All four grantees leveraged existing partnerships and created new ones, making an effort to reach beyond their existing network of health partnerships. Partners included school districts, city councils, local health coalitions, universities, local television stations, state agencies and others.

  • All of the grantees held community events—such as block parties, family "fitness nights" and neighborhood walks—to increase public awareness and disseminate information about physical activity and healthy eating.

Most Requested