The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation today announced it will commit at least $500 million over the next five years to tackle childhood obesity. The goal is to reverse the epidemic by 2015 and to bestow a seriousness on the issue, calling it one of the most urgent public health threats facing the United States…
During the past four decades, obesity rates have soared among all age groups, more than quadrupling among children ages 6 to 11. Today, more than 33 percent of children and adolescents — approximately 25 million kids — are overweight or obese.
Preventing obesity during childhood is critical, because habits formed when young often are carried forward into adulthood. Research shows that overweight adolescents have up to an 80 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults. Earlier onset of obesity leads to the earlier onset of related illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer.
In addition to the toll on our nation’s health, obesity also poses a tremendous financial threat to our economy and our health care system. It’s estimated that the obesity epidemic costs our nation $117 billion per year in direct health care costs and lost productivity. Childhood obesity alone carries a huge price tag — up to $14 billion per year in direct health care costs to treat kids.
"This is an all-American crisis," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of the foundation. "It affects all Americans, and it will require all of America working together to turn it around.
The foundation will focus on increasing affordable healthy foods in grocery stores and school lunches and opportunities for more physical activity in parks and in schools, many of which have discontinued physical ed classes in favor of standards of learning.
It will place special emphasis on reaching children at greatest risk for obesity and related health problems: African-American, Latino, Native American, Asian American and Pacific Islander children living in low-income communities.
The $500 million commitment will build on existing work of the Foundation, efforts to bring supermarkets back to under-served communities and programs to improve nutrition, physical activity and staff wellness in schools nationwide. The Foundation also invests in research to determine which changes to school and community environments are most effective in increasing physical activity and improving nutrition for kids.
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