The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on Wednesday announced that it will spend $500 million during the next five years on programs that address childhood obesity, particularly targeting minority children, who are at the highest risk for being obese.
Nearly 25 million children under age 18 are considered obese or overweight, accounting for $14 billion annually in medical expenses, according to the foundation.
The RWJF money will fund programs that aim to improve access to low-cost, healthy foods and to increase physical activity in schools and communities. Other efforts could include education for adults to teach children about good nutrition and exercise, RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey said.
She added that many of the children the foundation is trying to target are poor and live in areas with limited access to safe play areas and healthy foods. The foundation aims to build upon and support existing efforts by states, the food industry and other groups to address childhood obesity.
"We want the best ideas and the best people in the country to reverse this epidemic," Lavizzo-Mourey said, adding, "The epidemic of obesity in children is causing kids to have adult diseases. And those adult diseases have serious consequences and give the potential for having a sicker adulthood and shorter life".
According to the New York Times, the RWJF money represents "one of the largest public health initiatives ever tried by a private philanthropy." The foundation over the last few years has pledged $80 million to childhood obesity programs.
Source: Kaiser Family Foundation