|Robert Wood Johnson Foundation expands UNC program to reverse childhood obesity|
|January 12, 2010|
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has awarded multi-year grants to 41 communities across the country as part of a landmark national program, located at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic by 2015.
The 41 sites are funded through Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities, an RWJF program housed at Active Living By Design, part of the North Carolina Institute for Public Health at UNC's Gillings School of Global Public Health. The program supports local efforts to improve access to affordable healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity for children and families. With nine communities named as leading sites in 2008, the program now encompasses 50 sites in more than half of the states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. And with a total commitment of $33 million over five years, it is the Foundation's single largest investment in community-based solutions to childhood obesity.
"These sites can help move the country toward a place where good health is built right into the environment," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, president and chief executive officer of the Foundation. "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."
More than 23 million children and adolescents in the United States--nearly a third of youth ages 2 to 19--are now overweight or obese. Even among ages 2 to 5, the rate of overweight and obesity is 24 percent. Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities is a cornerstone of RWJF's $500 million commitment to reverse the epidemic.
The program will work in communities as diverse as Houghton County in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and Desoto, Marshall and Tate counties in the Mississippi Delta. Some are big cities like Houston and Philadelphia, others small, isolated locations like Cuba, N.M. Two of the grantees are located in North Carolina--Moore and Montgomery counties and Nash and Edgecombe counties. But all of the targeted neighborhoods have a significant obesity problem exacerbated by such issues as high unemployment and poverty, crime, dangerous traffic, too few grocery stores and aging, broken or insufficient infrastructure.
"The North Carolina Institute for Public Health has been home to Active Living By Design since its inception in late 2001," said Edward Baker Jr., MD, director of the N.C. Institute for Public Health. "We are delighted to leverage the national attention and perspective gained from our partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to serve communities across North Carolina. Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities grants, as well as investments from other North Carolina funders, will help us in our quest to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic and improve quality of life throughout the state."
The new sites and the program as a whole will target the barriers that make it difficult for children to get daily physical activity or eat healthy foods. They'll then determine what new policies and environmental changes would work best to overcome those barriers and reduce the prevalence of obesity.
Project leaders in all 50 communities have recruited an impressive array of local partners, including academic and health institutions, faith-based groups and nonprofit organizations, even chambers of commerce and a bicycling association. Many also are involving urban planners, local parks departments or school districts.
"Where people live has a huge impact on their health and quality of life," said Sarah Strunk, MHA, director of Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities. "The Foundation's investment in 50 communities across the nation--and collaboration among passionate, committed leaders and advocates--means that children who are at greatest risk for obesity will find that the healthy choice becomes the easier choice."
Each of the 41 new communities will receive a four-year grant of up to $360,000 to craft innovative solutions aimed at helping children and families lead healthier lives. Among the varied approaches they will pursue:
The 41 cities and regions announced today as Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities sites are:
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About Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities:
Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), advances community-based solutions that will help reverse the childhood obesity epidemic. It focuses on changing policies and environments to support active living and healthy eating among children and families, placing special emphasis on reaching children who are at highest risk based on race or ethnicity, income or geographic location. The Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities national program office is housed at Active Living By Design, part of the North Carolina Institute for Public Health at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Established in 2001 as an RWJF national program, Active Living By Design now serves funders and partnerships across the country that are fostering community-led change to build a culture of active living and healthy eating. To find out more about the sites or the project, visit www.healthykidshealthycommunities.org.
About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation:
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org.
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UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: Ramona DuBose, director of communications, (919) 966-7467 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Last updated January 12, 2010|