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Stories

A collection of expert commentaries about the impact of policies and programs, interviews with researchers about data releases, stories of communities taking action, and reports from places that have measured a decline in childhood obesity rates.

Dr. Rich Besser, RWJF President and CEO

Featured Story

A Letter From Dr. Rich Besser

Richard Besser, MD, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, describes the Foundation’s commitment to reducing the rates of childhood obesity across the nation: “We know it won’t be easy, or quick. We know it will require policy changes at every level of government, and we’re working alongside others to implement shifts that will make it easier for kids and their families to be healthy.”

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All Stories

Q&A

Healthy Drinks Matter for Healthy Kids

Megan Lott, deputy director of Healthy Eating Research and lead author of the Healthy Beverage Consumption in Early Childhood report shares recommendations about which drinks are best for infants and young kids to drink, as well as which ones to avoid.

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Q&A

Increasing Healthy Food Options in Vending Machines

There are nearly 4 million vending machines in U.S. schools, hospitals, apartment buildings, and other places where kids spend time. Thanks to a new public health commitment, beginning January 1, 2020, they will include “better for you” products.

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Little girl eating

Washington State Prioritizes Healthier Standards in Early Learning Settings

Washington state's Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition helps early care and education providers serve healthy meals statewide by advocating for strong nutrition requirements.

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Mayor Ron Nirenberg of San Antonio, Texas.
Expert Perspective

Building a More Equitable San Antonio

Mayor Ron Nirenberg and his team are committed to finding policy solutions to build a more inclusive and equitable San Antonio, Texas.

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Expert Perspective

The Power of Community Partnerships

Pediatrician and epidemiologist Renee Boynton-Jarrett shares that addressing childhood obesity simply can't happen only in a clinical environment. Solutions to the epidemic need to be accessible in all of the places where children live, learn, and play.

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Community Story

A Community Chooses Water First for Thirst

In the capital city of Columbus, where about 1 in 4 kids who enter kindergarten are overweight or have obesity, advocates and organizations have been working together to provide kids with the earliest possible opportunities to develop healthy habits. That means focusing on kids from birth to age 5.

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Letter

A Letter From Dr. Rich Besser

Richard Besser, MD, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, shares the Foundation's commitment to reducing rates of childhood obesity.

Read the Letter
Young kids exercising in PE class
Q&A

How Childhood Obesity Rates Have Changed Over Time

Childhood obesity rates have risen a lot in 40 years, but in the last decade, they've been leveling off. In this interview, Diane Schazenbach shares new insights about how rates have changed over time among different children.

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Kids in Texas playing on a water slide.
Q&A

Boosting Physical Activity in Rural Communities with Play Streets

Physical activity is important for our health—especially for children. But in rural communities—where there may be fewer resources, sidewalks, playgrounds, and parks—there often are fewer opportunities for kids to engage in the kind of physical activity that keeps them healthy and happy. Play Streets is one solution.

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Father and son picking produce
Q&A

How WIC Gives Children a Healthy Start, Preventing Obesity in Early Childhood

New data show obesity rates among 2- to 4-year-olds enrolled in WIC continue to decline. We sat down with Georgia Machell of the National WIC Association and Jim Weill of FRAC for their insights about the new data and the value of WIC.

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Young girl sits at her desk writing on a piece of paper.

School Meals Are Essential to Kids’ Health

Federal nutrition programs help ensure that children and families nationwide, especially those in low-income communities, have greater access to healthy foods and enough to eat. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Jamie Bussel explains how programs like WIC and school meals are essential to kids’ health.

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boy in lunch line at school
Q&A

Updated School Nutrition Standards Are Effective

A 2019 USDA study found that school meals are considerably healthier under the updated school nutrition standards. We spoke with The Lunch Tray’s Bettina Elias Siegel about her thoughts on the study.

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Girl biking on a street path.
Success Story

Supporting Healthy Kids and Communities Through Safe Routes to School in Minnesota

In Minnesota, strong support for Safe Routes to Schools programs has benefited nearly 500 schools and helped reach 110,000 students every two years.

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Girl hiking up mountain
Q&A

Cultivating Healthy Communities in Appalachia

Obesity and obesity-related chronic illnesses are significantly higher in Appalachian counties than elsewhere. A new report from the Appalachian Regional Commission examines how the region is approaching this challenge.

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Vegetables
Success Story

Extending the Reach of Healthy Food Initiatives

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates 40 million people live in neighborhoods without access to fresh, affordable and nutritious food options, making them “food insecure.” Residents of these communities typically rely on fast food restaurants and convenience stores that offer little to no fresh food.

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Q&A

How Food Marketing Contributes to Health Disparities

The vast majority of TV food ads targeting Black and Hispanic audiences are for unhealthy products. A new report shows what impact that could have on health disparities.

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Two young boys running outside.
Q&A

Investing in Physical Activity at School

Schools play an important role in helping kids lead active, healthy lives. We spoke with Emma Sanchez from San Francisco State University who has led work to learn more from elementary schools that are making it a priority to help students get at least 60 minutes of daily activity.

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John Auerbach, Renee Boynton-Jarrett, Jamie Bussel and Ruth Petersen on the hill speaking about childhood obesity.
Event

On the Hill

Nearly 100 advocates, nutritionists, researchers, Congressional staff members and others gathered on Capitol Hill for The State of Obesity 2018 Congressional Briefing in late February.

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Interactive graphic of the United States about the state of obesity.
Q&A

How State Policies Can Make it Easier to be Active

Physical activity can help children and adults reap widespread health benefits. The Safe Routes to School National Partnership produces a 50-state scan examining how state policies support or hinder walking and biking in communities and the school setting.

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Family shopping at the grocery store.
Q&A

A Conversation: The Important Role Food & Beverage Companies Play

Jamie Bussel and Victoria Brown, RWJF Program Officers, talk about the first-ever U.S. Access to Nutrition Index.

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Interactive map of the U.S.

New Data: State Policies to Prevent Obesity

Strong state policies play a critical role in preventing obesity and promoting health. Updated in January 2019, this interactive feature includes the latest data about individual state requirements in early childhood education settings, schools and communities.

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Commentary

Survey of U.S. High School Students

In June 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new data from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System about high school students’ health behaviors. We asked Holly Hunt, Chief, CDC’s Healthy Schools, to provide some insight about the latest survey.

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Map of the United States showing obesity rates for children ages 10- to 17
Commentary

New Youth Obesity Rate Data

The Health Resources and Services Administration’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau (HRSA MCHB) funds and directs the annual National Survey of Children’s Health, which includes the new national and state-by-state obesity rate data for youth ages 10 to 17.

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two women posing for photo
SNAP Story

How SNAP Supports this Texas Family Following their Military Service

Shayna Horne tells Tiffany Nieto-Gaytan, a local food bank staff member, about her family’s difficult transition out of the military and how the food bank and SNAP have provided crucial support.

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two women posing for photo
SNAP Story

How these Friends are Making Healthy Food Accessible to Texas Families Participating in SNAP

Best friends Beth Keel and Jovanna Lopez reflect on times in their life when they struggled with food insecurity and how SNAP helped Beth after an injury that left her out of work.

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Wife and husband pose for photo
SNAP Story

How SNAP Kept this Kansas Family Going After Father Lost his Job

Husband and wife, Tim and Emily Brown, talk about the short period of time they received SNAP benefits after Tim lost his job.

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two women pose for photo
SNAP Story

How SNAP Enables this Busy Alabama Mom to Provide for her Young Family

Andrika Harmon talks with Kristi Gay, her nurse home visitor, about how SNAP helps her buy healthy food to support her young family while she is working and finishing college.

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Mother and son pose for photo
SNAP Story

How SNAP Helps this Michigan Family Access Healthy Food

Sixteen-year-old Max and his mother, Catherine Gage, discuss the important role of SNAP in helping their family get the nutrition they need during a difficult time.

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Two men pose for photo
SNAP Story

How these Michigan Farmers & Veterans Support Families Participating in SNAP

Fellow veterans and friends Jeremy Huffman and Adam Ingrao talk about transitioning from the military to their roles as farmers and healthy food advocates supporting families who participate in SNAP.

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man and woman posing for photo
SNAP Story

How SNAP Helped this Kansas Mom Leave an Abusive Relationship

Kolia Souza and her husband, Brian Johnson, share stories about how SNAP helped them during a challenging time in their lives.

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two women pose for photo
SNAP Story

How SNAP Helped this Alabama Mom Graduate College and Give her Daughter a Healthy Start

Dr. Jennifer Wells-Marshall tells her friend and colleague, Helen Jones, about receiving SNAP benefits for a period of time when her daughter was young before going on to get her Ph.D.

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Adult Obesity in the United States 2017
Guest Post

The Time to Invest Is Now

John Auerbach, president and CEO of Trust for America’s Health, comments on the newly released adult obesity rate data, and shares a vision for how to address this complex challenge. He notes that policies and programs that align efforts across sectors can work to prevent and reduce obesity. What needs to be done now is to implement those efforts in more communities, particularly the communities hardest hit by the obesity crisis.

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Young kids running outside
Rate Decline

Greater St. Cloud, Minnesota

Greater St. Cloud reported a 24% decline in the obesity rates among children age 12 from 2008 to 2015.

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young children being active
Rate Decline

New York, New York

New York City reported a 5.5% decline in obesity among students in grades K-8 from 2006-07 to 2010-11.

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kids in PE class
Rate Decline

Kearney, Nebraska

The Kearney school district reported a 13.4% decline in obesity among children in grades K-5 from 2006 to 2011.

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Children in PE class
Rate Decline

California

California reported a 1.1% decline in obesity among students in grades 5, 7 and 9 from 2005 to 2010.

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Young children being active
Rate Decline

Tennessee

Tennessee reported a decline in obesity among students in grades K, 2, 4, 6, 8 and high school from 2007-08 to 2012-13.

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Young girl holding a piece of celery
Rate Decline

Mississippi

Mississippi reported an 11.6% decline in the overweight and obesity rates among children in grades K-5 from 2005 to 2013.

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Children and teacher in gym class
Rate Decline

Lincoln, Nebraska

Lincoln reported an 8.2% decline in the obesity rates among children in grades K-8 from 2010 to 2013.

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Young girl in a hula-hoop
Rate Decline

DuPage County, Illinois

DuPage Co., reported a 4.5% decline in the overweight and obesity rates among students in grades K, 6 and 9 from 2011 to 2014.

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Children playing outside
Rate Decline

Southern California

Southern California reported an 8.4% decline in the obesity rates among children and teenagers from 2008 to 2013.

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Girl eating lunch
Rate Decline

Seminole County, Florida

Seminole Co., reported a 13.7% decline among children in grades 1, 3 and 6 from 2006-07 to 2013-14.

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Young girl doing yoga
Rate Decline

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia reported a 6.5% decline in the obesity rate for students in grades K-12 from 2006-07 to 2012-13.

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Young boy looking at plant
Rate Decline

New Mexico

New Mexico reported declines in overweight and obesity rates among kindergartners and third graders from 2010 to 2015.

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Young boy holding an apple up to his mothers mouth
Rate Decline

Colorado

Colorado reported a 7.4% decline among 2- to 4-year-olds enrolled in WIC from 2012 to 2015.

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Boy hands girl a football
Rate Decline

Cherokee County, South Carolina

Cherokee County reported declines in overweight and obesity rates among students in grades 1 and 3 from 2012 to 2015.

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Young girl smiling while holding a piece of fruit
Rate Decline

WIC Preschoolers

CDC reported a decline in obesity rates among 2- to 4-year old WIC participants from 2010 to 2014.

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Young girl
Progress Report

American Indian and Alaska Native Youth

Obesity rates have stabilized among kids in Indian country.

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Girl hiking up mountain
Rate Decline

Anchorage, Alaska

Anchorage reported a 5.4% decline in the overweight and obesity rates among children in grades K, 1, 3, 5 and 7 from 2004 to 2014.

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