Governors Get on Board to Help Their States Tackle Childhood Obesity

Field of Work: Childhood obesity.

Problem Synopsis: In 2005, Mike Huckabee, then-governor of Arkansas, became chair of the National Governors Association (NGA). Chairs select an initiative to pursue during their one-year term, and Gov. Huckabee—who had struggled with obesity and had lost more than 100 pounds—chose to create Healthy America. The initiative sought to address obesity among adults and children by encouraging them to make healthy lifestyle choices at home, work and school. At the time, the obesity epidemic had not yetreached mainstream attention, according to NGA staff.

Synopsis of the Work: From 2005 to 2010, the NGA Center for Best Practices worked with governors to promote initiatives to combat childhood obesity. The center convened national forums to educate governors on the epidemic; provided funding to 15 states to spur innovation in addressing it; and published reports on effective policies and programs.

Key Results

In reports to governors and RWJF, the Center for Best Practices cited these results:

  • The project raised awareness among the nation's governors about obesity—especially in children—as a critical challenge, and spurred them to take steps to address it.
  • The 15 grantee states developed and coordinated policies and programs tackling childhood obesity in three core arenas:
    • Child-care settings. Two states piloted new policies and programs to improve nutrition and physical activity among preschool children.
    • Statewide policy planning. Four states created mechanisms for coordinating diverse programs for addressing childhood obesity.
    • School-based efforts. Nine states focused on implementing school wellness policies; used fitness testing or other means to assess children's health; or created a governor's award program to recognize innovative efforts in schools.
  • The center published reports and issue briefs on strategies and best practices for use by governors and state agencies in combating obesity and posted them on its website.