Princeton, N.J.―The following is a statement from Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, regarding today’s announcements from Let’s Move! and the release of a new study on national obesity rates. The Foundation has dedicated $500 million to reverse the epidemic of childhood obesity in America.
Today is a big day for children’s health. Research published in JAMA shows continued signs of progress toward reversing the childhood obesity epidemic, with significant declines observed among our youngest children. These trends reinforce my belief that, moving forward, children throughout the nation can achieve healthy weights and live healthier lives.
The research published today reports that obesity prevalence among 2 to 5 year olds has dropped by approximately 40 percent in eight years, a remarkable turnaround. Progress among the youngest children is especially important because we know that preventing obesity at an early age helps young people maintain a healthy weight into adulthood. We are also heartened to see obesity rates remain steady overall, though we know it means we still have significant work to do.
This progress also makes the announcements made earlier today by Let’s Move! all the more exciting.
They reinforce and build on recent steps taken by the nation’s schools and communities to provide students with healthier nutrition and opportunities to be physically active. Nine out of ten schools across the country are certified to meet healthier lunch standards, and all schools with 40 percent of students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch will soon be able to provide healthier, free meals to all of their students. We also are pleased to see a simple standard introduced for marketing: if a food or beverage isn’t healthy enough to be sold in schools, it shouldn’t be marketed in schools either. That makes sense and it’s good for kids’ health.
We’re encouraged to see positive changes continue after the school day ends, and herald the commitment of Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the National Recreation and Park Association to set higher standards to help kids be active and have healthy snacks and beverages. Together these changes mean that the entire day will be healthier for millions of kids.
After decades of seemingly endless bad news about obesity, our collective efforts over the last several years show that we as a nation are finally moving in the right direction. Of course we can't stop now. We must redouble our efforts, and continue to focus on those children and families most at risk for obesity. Through comprehensive efforts like the ones we applaud today, we can truly build a culture of health for all of America's children.