The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has announced an initial $8 million commitment to the American Heart Association to create and manage an initiative aimed at reversing the nation's childhood obesity epidemic by 2015.
Building on AHA's advocacy capacity and experience, the initiative will work to change local, state, and federal policies to help children and adolescents eat healthier foods and be more active. To that end, AHA will develop the overarching strategy for the initiative and will fund policy interventions that advance three priorities found to impact childhood obesity — improving the nutritional quality of snack foods and beverages in schools, reducing consumption of sugary beverages, and protecting children from unhealthy food and beverage marketing — while the foundation will fund efforts in underserved communities to improve access to affordable healthy foods; increase access to parks, playgrounds, walking paths, bike lanes, and other opportunities to stay active; and boost children's physical activity levels.
According to the foundation, nearly one in three children and adolescents are overweight or obese, putting them at risk for a number of serious health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer.
"Individuals across the country recognize the severity of the childhood obesity epidemic, and they are counting on their elected and appointed representatives to support efforts to help children lead healthier lives," said AHA chief executive Nancy Brown. "We're excited to work with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to organize and build support for those policy efforts so the country can make lasting change."