RWJF Awards Grants to Forty-One Communities to Tackle Childhood Obesity

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has announced four-year grants of up to $360,000 each to forty-one communities across the country as part of a five-year, $33 million initiative aimed at finding community-based solutions to the childhood obesity epidemic.

Described by the foundation as the cornerstone of a $500 million commitment to help tackle childhood obesity by 2015, the Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities initiative was launched in late 2008 to support local efforts to improve access to affordable, healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity for children and families. Expanding on the efforts under way in nine communities, the newly selected communities will work with local partners to identify the barriers that make it difficult for children to get daily physical activity or eat healthy foods while determining what new policies and environmental changes would work best to overcome those barriers and reduce the prevalence of obesity. The communities include Denver, Colorado; Houghton County, Michigan; Jackson, Mississippi; Benton County, Oregon; and San Antonio, Texas.

More than 23 million children and adolescents in the United States are overweight or obese, with nearly a third of youth between the ages of 2 and 19 classified as such. Even in the 2 to 5 age group, some 24 percent of children are overweight or obese.

"These sites can help move the country toward a place where good health is built right into the environment," said RWJF president and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey. "All children, no matter where they live, should be able to jump on a bike and ride safely in their neighborhood or to school. They should be able to play in a well-maintained and crime-free park. And they and their families should be able to easily find — and afford — fresh, healthy foods."

For a complete list of participating communities, visit the RWJF Web site.