Leadership for Healthy Communities, an initiative established by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to assist state and local leaders in their efforts to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic, has announced seven grants to organizations working to increase children's access to affordable healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity.
The grants will support efforts to educate legislators, mayors, health directors, school boards, and other officials in a position to develop strong obesity-prevention policies in states, counties, and towns. "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 LHC director Maya Rockeymoore Cummings.
Grants of approximately $300,000 were awarded to the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, the National Association of County and City Health Officials, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, the National Association of State Boards of Education, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the National Congress of American Indians, and the National League of Cities Institute. Concentrating their efforts in fifteen states in the South, where obesity rates are among the nation's highest, the groups will apply strategies such as altering local land use and open-space policies so children and teens have better access to parks and more options for recreation; creating and implementing strong local wellness policies to ensure that children have easy access to affordable healthy foods in cafeterias and vending machines; and creating safe routes for children to walk and bike to school.
"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," said Rockeymoore Cummings. "For the future of our children — and of our country — we must act with urgency to inspire and ultimately achieve deep and abiding change."