RWJF a Heavyweight in Obesity Fight

December 16th, 2008 | Sources: Boston Globe, RWJ Foundation, Washington Post

Congratulations to Somerville, Massachusetts, Washington DC and 7 other cities!

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation identified them as national innovators in the fight against childhood obesity. The honor comes with a cash payout from RWJF’s $44 million Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities program which hopes to spread fat-busting social innovations to 70 more communities.

Somerville attacked the scourge on many fronts. The city repainted crosswalks and added bike lanes. Public schools shelved deep fryers and replaced canned fruits with fresh produce. Elementary school kids maintained vegetable gardens on school grounds, and the Rec. Department offered low-cost dance classes.

As a result, Somerville 8-year olds gained one pound less than children in a control group over the course of a school year, according to Tufts nutritionist Christina Economos.

That’s not bad in a community where 44% of the kids are overweight or at risk to become so, and public health officials believe the gains will increase over time.

Since 66% of Somerville students hail from low-income families and half do not speak English in the home, there is hope the innovations can be reproduced in other locations that have been hit hard by the epidemic.

In the nation’s capital, the Summit Health Institute for Research and Education, along with 6 local agencies and community groups will receive $400,000 from RWJF to focus their battle against childhood obesity in Wards 7 and 8.

According to the RWJF Web site, Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities is a national program whose goal is to “implement healthy eating and active living policy- and environmental-change initiatives that can support healthier communities” across the US.

The program emphasizes reaching “children who are at highest risk for obesity on the basis of race/ethnicity, income and/or geographic location.”


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