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Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Awards Grants to Nine Communities In Launch of $44 Million National Program to Reverse Childhood Obesity
Date:12/2/2008

Comprehensive Health Initiative Will Expand to 70 Cities and Regions by 2010

PRINCETON, N.J., Dec. 2 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As the first investment of a new $44 million initiative, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has awarded grants of up to $400,000 to nine communities across the country that will serve as leading sites for its most ambitious effort yet to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic.

Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities will support local action to increase opportunities for physical activity and access to healthy, affordable foods for children and families. The goal is to catalyze policy and environmental changes that can make a lasting difference and be replicated across the country.

The program is a major part of RWJF's five-year, $500 million commitment to reverse the epidemic in the United States by 2015. The Foundation is also focused on building the evidence about what works to prevent childhood obesity and on supporting advocacy to educate policy-makers and leaders at all levels about the best solutions.

"Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities will be a cornerstone of our work into the next decade," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., RWJF president and CEO. "This is one of the largest community-action programs ever supported by the Foundation and one that holds great potential for changing many people's lives."

The leading sites are urban and rural, large and small. They include Chicago; Columbia, Mo.; Louisville, Ky.; Seattle; Somerville, Mass.; Washington; and Baldwin Park, Central Valley and Oakland in California.

Through impressive partnerships of neighborhood associations and public agencies, all are pursuing an array of strategies to reshape their communities and promote active living and healthy eating - from farmers markets in public schools to community gardens and produce-stocked corner stores; from new bicycle lanes and wider sidewalks to a pedestrian-only boulevard on weekends.

The program will grow to approximately 70 communities when another round of funding is awarded late next year. Many are expected to be from a swath of southern states where childhood obesity rates are particularly high. The leading sites will then work with the new communities to share the lessons they've learned and the most effective approaches.

"The leading sites announced today will provide the rest of the nation with clear direction on how we must change the environment around us to support our children's health," said Sarah Strunk, M.H.A., director of Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities. "The transformation of these communities will also demonstrate the power of community partnerships working toward a common vision."

The nine communities recognized today will receive four-year grants to broaden or accelerate changes already under way. In each, special emphasis is being placed on reaching children who are at greatest risk of obesity because of their income, race or ethnicity.

Seattle's partners, for example, will focus on engaging young immigrant families in four public housing developments across King County. Part of Louisville's work will concentrate on a corner store strategy in a dozen primarily African-American neighborhoods. The city of Washington plans to establish a "saturation index" of unhealthy food vendors to help tackle obesity and overweight in two lower-income wards.

But even as these leading sites are moving forward, so, too, is the next phase of Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities. RWJF today released a call for proposals for the second round of funding under the program. Next December, it will award four-year grants of up to $360,000 to about 60 communities.

The deadline for brief proposals is Feb. 3. Partnerships from across the United States and its territories are eligible to apply. Preference will be given to applicants from communities in 15 states where the prevalence of or risk for childhood obesity is particularly high: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia.

Visit www.healthykidshealthycommunities.org to download the call for proposals and obtain additional information, including profiles of each leading community and its plans for change.

Complete details also are available at www.rwjf.org/childhoodobesity.

About Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities

Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), advances community-based solutions that will help reverse the childhood obesity epidemic. It focuses on changing policies and environments to support active living and healthy eating among children and families. The program places special emphasis on reaching children who are at highest risk for obesity on the basis of income, race/ethnicity and geographic location. It will support RWJF's efforts to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic in the United States by 2015.

The Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities national program office is housed at Active Living by Design, part of the North Carolina Institute for Public Health at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health in Chapel Hill. Established in 2001 as a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Active Living by Design now serves funders and partnerships across the country that are fostering community-led change to build a culture of active living and healthy eating.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change.

For more than 35 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org.


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SOURCE Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
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