Leaders Share Winning Strategies to Reduce Childhood Obesity

Jul 9, 2013, 12:37 PM

Progress in reversing childhood obesity was the focus of an event today in Washington, D.C.,  hosted by Voices for Healthy Kids, a partnership between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the American Heart Association (AHA). Leaders from four states and five cities or counties that have seen at least small gains in reversing childhood obesity shared their programs and strategies with over 200 attendees from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. The goal of Voices for Healthy Kids is to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic in the U.S. by 2015.

>>Read more on signs of progress in reversing the childhood obesity epidemic in 11 different locations across the country.

“These early signs of progress are extremely promising,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, president and CEO of RWJF. “The leaders joining us today are showing that we can reverse the childhood obesity epidemic, and that we must continue to learn from what’s happening on the ground so we can prioritize strategies that are working.”

Participating communities included the states of California, New Mexico, West Virginia and Mississippi, New York City, Philadelphia, Anchorage and Kearney, Nebraska and Granville and Vance Counties in North Carolina. The childhood obesity declines reported by these communities have been measured since the mid-2000's and range from a 1.1 percent decline among students in grades 5, 7, and 9 in California to a 13 percent decline among students in kindergarten through grade 5 in Mississippi.

“In order to see these declines replicated across the country, we have to make healthy changes in every school district, every community and every state,” said Nancy Brown, CEO of AHA.

Community leaders shared their strategies including Thomas Farley, MD, MPH, director of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. “The epidemic of childhood obesity is a consequence of our children spending time in homes, schools, neighborhoods, and communities in which it is simply too easy to consume excess calories and too difficult to expend them,” said Dr. Farley. “To reverse this epidemic, we must create a healthier food environment for them and engineer physical activity back into their daily lives.”

More than 23.5 million children and adolescents in the United States—nearly one out of every three young people—are overweight or obese. Strategies that can be effective include hosting a farmers market that makes locally grown, healthy food available to people from all parts of the community; mandating sidewalks in all new and redeveloped properties; and creating a park system to offer opportunities for recreation on a daily basis, said Chip Johnson, mayor of Hernando, Miss., who spoke as part of a panel at today’s event.

During her opening remarks, Nancy Brown of the AHA announced partnerships for the six strategies of the Voices for Healthy Kids initiative:

Bonus Link:

  • Watch a NewPublicHealth video on population health improvement strategies in Hernando, Mississippi.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.