Economic Recovery Act Offers Opportunities to Develop Healthier Communities

The current recession is making it much harder for many Americans, particularly lower-income, rural and racial and ethnic minority populations, to lead healthy, active lives. This policy brief outlines specific ways state and local policy-makers can use funding from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to create safe places for physical activity and improve access to healthy foods—and thereby help reduce the childhood obesity epidemic—in communities nationwide.

The historic legislation includes $787 billion to create jobs and promote economic recovery through a combination of investments and tax cuts. State and local governments will receive at least $144 billion. A large proportion of these funds has been designated for the construction and maintenance of public roadways, buildings and facilities, as well as investments in clean energy, disease prevention, community development, education, crime prevention and direct food assistance to those in need.

This brief from Leadership for Healthy Communities offers recommendations for how policy-makers can use the economic recovery act funding most effectively to help transform their communities. It also provides the supporting research for many of the opportunities available. Leadership for Healthy Communities, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is designed to support local and state government leaders in their efforts to reduce childhood obesity through public policies that promote active living and healthy eating.