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Seven National Policy-maker Organizations Awarded Grants for Initiatives to Reverse Childhood Obesity Epidemic

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 Child Health News J E 4
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 16 Seven organizations representing policy-makers from across the country have received a total of nearly $2 million in grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to help communities increase children's access to affordable healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity.

The grants were awarded through Leadership for Healthy Communities, an RWJF national program that assists state and local leaders in their efforts to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic.

With nearly a third of children and adolescents either overweight or obese in this country, more than 23 million young people are at increased risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other serious chronic diseases. The toll on an already overburdened health care system is increasing exponentially. Studies estimate that the obesity epidemic is already costing the nation more than $147 billion annually in direct medical expenses.

These new grants will support initiatives to educate legislators, mayors, health directors, school boards and other officials who are key to strong obesity-prevention policies being implemented in states, counties and towns. The awards come one week after First Lady Michelle Obama called on all Americans, including policy-makers at all levels, to join her Let's Move Campaign to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic.

"Because of their influence in shaping the environments in which children live, learn and play, elected and appointed officials are critical partners in efforts to prevent childhood obesity," said Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, Ph.D., director of Leadership for Healthy Communities. "These seven organizations have an impressive record of working with policy-makers to successfully implement strategies that support the health of children and their families."

The organizations will concentrate on 15 states in the Southern region, where obesity rates are among the nation's highest. The groups already have identified some of the strategies they will seek to advance through their efforts with government leaders there. Those include:

"While everyone has a role to play in combating childhood obesity, policy-makers are in a unique position to bring about the changes our society needs to succeed," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of the Foundation. "That's why the work of Leadership for Healthy Communities is so important."

The organizations receiving RWJF grants of approximately $300,000 include:

Leadership for Healthy Communities has previously worked with several of the groups and seen notable progress at state and local levels. For instance:

"Leadership for Healthy Communities aims to usher in a new era for young people, one in which healthy foods and the opportunity for safe physical activity are available to all," Rockeymoore Cummings said. "For the future of our children -- and of our country -- we must act with urgency to inspire and ultimately achieve deep and abiding change."

Leadership for Healthy Communities is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation designed to support local and state government leaders nationwide in their efforts to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic through public policies that promote active living, healthy eating and access to healthy foods. For more information, visit www.leadershipforhealthycommunities.org.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org.

-- altering local land-use and open-space policies so that children and teens have better access to parks and more options for recreation; -- creating and implementing strong local school wellness policies to ensure that children have easy access to affordable healthy foods in cafeterias and vending machines; -- expanding opportunities for students to be active for at least 30 minutes daily by including physical education as a core requirement in school curriculums; -- creating safe routes for children to walk and bike to school; and -- supporting farmers' markets, community gardens and the procurement of locally grown foods for schools and communities.

SOURCE Leadership for Healthy Communities
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