A new collaborative effort announced Thursday between the American Heart Association (AHA) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) aims to turn around the nation's childhood-obesity epidemic within the next three years.
Together, the two organizations will focus on six major policy areas, based on research suggesting what's most effective in terms of combating childhood obesity.
Both organizations will "focus on reaching communities hardest hit by the [childhood obesity] epidemic, including communities of color and lower-income communities," according to a press release.
The RWJF will head up the efforts surrounding physical activity, including helping schools and other youth programs increase the amount of physical activity for their students. The foundation will also be funding ways to increase other opportunities to be physically active, such as the building of bike lanes, parks, and walking paths.
While the AHA will largely be responsible for funding efforts regarding nutrition, the RWJF will help underwrite initiatives that increase students' access to healthy food.
The AHA, meanwhile, will be focused on bolstering the nutritional quality of snack foods and drinks sold in schools, reducing children's consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, and shielding students from marketing about unhealthy food or beverages. (A study recently presented at the American Public Health Association's annual meeting found large amounts of soda consumption was linked to students being overweight or gaining weight.)
"Some cities and states are starting to see progress in their efforts to reverse the childhood-obesity epidemic," said Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, the president and chief executive officer of the RWJF, in a statement. "As a country, we're gaining a better sense of what changes work, and now it's time to make those changes in every community. I'm confident this new collaboration with the American Heart Association will help us do just that."
The AHA will also be responsible for tying together all six policy areas that both it and the RWJF will be focusing on over the next few years. To help with that, the RWJF is providing $8 million of initial funding to the AHA to help establish the overarching advocacy initiative.
"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 Nancy Brown, chief executive officer of the AHA, in a statement. "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."
This announcement comes roughly one week after a study projected childhood obesity to cost Maine more than $1 billion in medical costs over the next two decades.
A report released in September from the RWJF and Trust for America's Health suggested that 13 states could have adult-obesity rates higher than 60 percent by 2030, if the U.S. obesity epidemic remains unchecked.
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