Communities Creating Healthy Environments: Improving Access to Healthy Foods and Safe Places in Communities of Color

A Progress Report

Field of Work: community organizing around childhood obesity in communities of color

Problem Synopsis: Nearly one-third of all U.S. children and adolescents are either overweight or obese, putting them at higher risk for multiple diseases, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. The epidemic of childhood obesity is most difficult to address in low-income communities of color, where there is less access to healthy, affordable foods and safe places for children to play.

Synopsis of the Work: Communities Creating Healthy Environments (CCHE) is a $15 million RWJF national program that takes on the challenges of childhood obesity through grassroots community organizing and policy advocacy. Organizations in 22 communities of color are incorporating the obesity issue into their broader social justice work—for example, by highlighting the lack of parks or access to fresh foods in poor neighborhood as evidence of inequitable resource distribution, as well as a barrier to healthy living.

Key Results

  • The 22 CCHE sites have identified policies needing to be changed in order to improve access to affordable and nutritious food and increase opportunities for physical activity. Their advocacy work is underway, focused on land-use strategies, public safety, affordable housing, open space, school-based initiatives, public transportation, strengthening traditional practices on tribal lands, and more.

    Twelve technical assistance providers—drawn from leaders in grassroots organizing, capacity building, research and evaluation, communications, and new media—support the project sites and help to build an enduring advocacy infrastructure. Their emphasis is an "asset-based" approach that respects and draws on the project sites’ experience and skills.

    As it strives to grow the field, CCHE is also promoting networking among community groups, local organizers, and other stakeholders interested in combating childhood obesity, with an eye towards creating a network of alliances after RWJF funding ends.