The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation announced that it will invest an additional $500 million over the next decade to tackle childhood obesity, matching $500 million that the foundation previously dedicated to this goal in 2007. The $1 billion is being invested in programs that make school environments healthier, through increased physical activity, improved school lunches, and also, in some cases, gardening activities. The Foundation is partnering with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, which was founded by the American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation to decrease childhood obesity rates. More than 27,000 schools receive some support through the program.
Obesity rates have leveled off, but still remain high. Per the CDC, in 2012, nearly 18 percent of children aged 6 to 11 were obese. African Americans and Latinos have higher obesity rates; obesity rates are correlated with income disparities. The Foundation’s work will focus in lower-income communities, and also seek to improve food access.
“When we set out our initial goal to reverse childhood obesity by 2016 we wanted to see clear progress and if you look at the national statistics we’re starting to level off nationwide,” Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, President and CEO of RWJF, told the PBS NewsHour, “We feel like there’s a real momentum going at the moment. We’ve turned the corner on this obesity epidemic, but the gains are fragile.”