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Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, American Heart Association Join Forces to Reverse Childhood Obesity Epidemic

American Heart Association 
News Release (AHA)

November 21, 2012

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the American Heart Association (AHA) today announced an ambitious collaboration to reverse the nation's childhood obesity epidemic by 2015. Building upon AHA's extensive advocacy capacity and experience, RWJF will provide the Association with $8 million in initial funding to create and manage an advocacy initiative focused on changing local, state, and federal policies to help children and adolescents eat healthier foods and be more active.

More than 23.5 million children and adolescents in the United States-nearly one in three young people-are overweight or obese. Obesity puts children at risk for a number of serious health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer. Some research indicates that, because of obesity, the current generation of young people could be the first in the nation's history to live sicker and die younger than their parents' generation.

RWJF is the nation's largest philanthropy dedicated solely to improving health and health care. AHA is the nation's oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting cardiovascular disease.  

"Some cities and states are starting to see progress in their efforts to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, RWJF president and CEO. "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."

Under the new initiative, RWJF and AHA will focus on policy interventions to advance six priorities that research shows are likely to have the greatest impact on childhood obesity. AHA will develop the overarching strategy that knits together efforts across all six priorities and fund efforts for three of them:

  • 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.

RWJF will fund efforts to address the following priorities in underserved communities:

  • increasing access to affordable healthy foods;
  • increasing access to parks, playgrounds, walking paths, bike lanes and other opportunities to be physically active; and
  • helping schools and youth-serving programs increase children's physical activity levels.

Both RWJF and AHA will focus on reaching communities hardest hit by the epidemic, including communities of color and lower-income communities.  

"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, AHA CEO. "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."

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