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RWJF Program Evaluations

An RWJF Collection

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Evaluation: Arkansas Act 1220 of 2003 to Combat Childhood Obesity

Obesity is recognized as one of the most pressing health threats faced by families and communities in Arkansas and in the nation overall. Today, nearly one-third of U.S. children and adolescents—about 23 million youths—are obese or overweight. Though the alarming rates of increase among some children and youths appear to have slowed or stabilized, both nationally and in Arkansas, these rates continue to rise among teens and many racial and ethnic populations. The serious health and economic implications associated with obesity are stimulating federal and state legislative changes to address the epidemic.

With the passage of Act 1220 of 2003 and the subsequent work by schools and communities, Arkansas became a national leader in addressing childhood obesity through a comprehensive school-based intervention. The Act mandated a limited number of immediate statewide policy changes and also established mechanisms to help create future changes at both the state and local levels. The ultimate objective of the legislation is to improve the health of Arkansas children and their families.


The findings suggest that Arkansas Act 1220 of 2003 simulated important changes in Arkansas schools and in the ways that Arkansas families, school personnel and policy makers thought about childhood obesity and its associated risks.

About the Evaluation

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded an evaluation—beginning in 2004—of the process and impact of Act 1220 of 2003’s implementation. A research team in the Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health at the University of Arkansas conducted the evaluation which included surveys of parents, students and school administrators annually; case studies of school districts; and linkages of each school district’s implementation to relevant BMI data, all in effort to identify the key elements of policy that contribute to prevention of childhood obesity.