The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a joint initiative of the William J. Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association, has announced a new program to help schools create environments that foster healthy lifestyles and prevent obesity among students in grades K-12.
Made possible by an $8 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Healthy Schools Program will set standards to improve the nutritional value of food served in and out of school cafeterias, increase physical activity during and after school, and implement lessons on healthy lifestyles for students and wellness programs for staff. To help schools meet these standards, the program will provide tools and materials, and consultants will discuss implementation with individual schools and districts. Any school is eligible to apply, but during its first year of operation the program will focus on recruiting three hundred schools in twelve states, with an emphasis on schools serving students who are disadvantaged socioeconomically.
"Every school day, fifty-four million young people attend nearly 123,000 schools across the country," said former President Bill Clinton. "Influencing and enhancing the ability of schools to provide healthy environments could be one of the most effective ways to shape the health, education, and well-being of our next generation."
Over the past three decades, rates of childhood obesity in the United States have more than doubled among children between the ages of 2 and 5 and adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19, and have more than tripled among youth ages 6 to 11. Inddeed, roughly nine million children over the age of 6 are considered obese, and many are being diagnosed with diseases previously considered "adult" illnesses, such as type-2 diabetes. "To halt the epidemic of childhood obesity, we don't need a tipping point. We need a pivot point, and school is it," said Robert Wood Johnson Foundation president and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey.