Today, more than 23.5 million children and adolescents in the United States—nearly one in three young people—are either obese or overweight, putting them at higher risk for serious, even life-threatening health problems. However, recent data shows that states and cities that have taken a comprehensive policy approach to preventing obesity are beginning to see declines in obesity rates among children.

Engaging Policymakers

The Center for Global Policy Solutions served as the national program office for Leadership for Healthy Communities, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation designed to support local and state government leaders nationwide in their efforts to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic through public policies that promote active living, healthy eating and access to healthy foods.

CGPS and LHC worked with six policymaker associations, including AASA, the School Superintendents Association; Local Government Commission; National Association of County and City Health Officials; National Conference of State Legislatures; U.S. Conference of Mayors; and Women in Government. These associations were selected because their members are uniquely positioned to work across multiple levels of government and across intra-governmental agencies and departments to eliminate barriers to healthy eating and active living in schools and communities.

Specifically, the six organizations focused on one or more of the following policy priorities:

  • improving the nutritional quality of snack foods and beverages in schools;
  • reducing consumption of sugary beverages;
  • protecting children from unhealthy food and beverage marketing;
  • 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 physical activity.

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Changing Health through Innovative Leadership Development (CHILD) was a communications and messaging initiative designed to elevate the voices of state and local elected and appointed officials working to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic in communities of color.

The primary goals of CHILD were to:

  • increase awareness about childhood obesity in communities of color;
  • strengthen the ability of elected and appointed officials representing those communities to develop effective solutions that promote healthy eating and active living (HEAL);
  • build the capacity of policy-makers to engage the media on the impact of and solutions to childhood obesity in communities of color.

Ultimately, this initiative seeks to increase the public will to make policy and environmental changes that support healthy eating and physical activity in the most disproportionately affected communities.

Cause & Effect: How Policy Change Impacts Childhood Obesity