Turning the Tide of Obesity and Chronic Disease

James S. Marks, senior vice president and director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Health Group, delivered a keynote speech at the YMCA’s Pioneering Healthier Communities meeting in Washington, D.C. Marks highlighted the many efforts of the YMCA to help prevent and diminish childhood obesity, including the community-level efforts of the Pioneering Healthier Communities program which helps transform communities into healthier environments by reinstating physical education in schools, strengthening school vending and snack policies, improving trail systems and bike paths, and creating local walking clubs.

With the cost of health care rising faster than the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), Marks explained how “fundamental it is to our nation’s future that we find a way to deal with it. The time for slow changes gradually getting things under control is past. The changes will have to be substantial and quick.” With an increase in the number of obese children compared to adults, “the health and financial costs in our future are likely to be much greater than those we are struggling to pay for now. In the long run we can’t get fiscally healthy as a nation until we get physically as healthy as we can.”

“Obesity and prevention will require us to change the very landscape of our communities and lives. It calls for us to rethink how we live and work and how we learn and play, as well as what we eat. And that’s why the Pioneering Healthier Communities approach is so right.”