Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Announces $500 Million Commitment to Reverse Childhood Obesity in U.S.

Nation's largest health philanthropy will expand research, school and

community efforts, with focus on reaching kids and families in underserved


Apr 04, 2007, 01:00 ET from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

    PRINCETON, N.J., April 4 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Robert Wood
 Johnson Foundation (RWJF) today announced it will commit at least $500
 million over the next five years to tackle one of the most urgent public
 health threats facing our nation: childhood obesity. This is the largest
 commitment by any foundation to this issue. The Foundation's goal is to
 reverse the epidemic of childhood obesity in the United States by 2015.
     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 that
 last into adulthood frequently are formed during youth. 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 RWJF. "It affects all Americans, and it will
 require all of America working together to turn it around. Our commitment
 is a call to action for families, schools, government, industry, health
 care and philanthropy. To reverse the obesity epidemic and create a culture
 of health, we must provide families with better access to healthy choices."
     The Foundation will focus on improving access to affordable healthy
 foods and opportunities for safe physical activity in schools and
 communities. 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.
     "Individual choice and behavior are important, but the world we live in
 plays a big role, too. We have to make it easier for kids to eat well and
 move more," said Lavizzo-Mourey. "That means more parks and safe places for
 kids to play, more grocery stores that stock affordable fresh produce, and
 improved school policies on nutrition and physical education. With this new
 commitment, we hope to foster more of these changes that will make it
 easier for families to raise healthy kids."
     For the past several years, RWJF has supported programs to address
 childhood obesity that offer potential for wide-scale change in communities
 and schools. These include efforts to bring supermarkets back to
 underserved 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. The $500 million commitment will build on
 RWJF's current work and foster the movement to reverse the childhood
 obesity epidemic.
     "It's impressive to see the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation make this
 commitment," said former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher. "The
 leadership statement this makes is tremendous. With so many serious
 problems in health and health care, RWJF's investment highlights just how
 critical this problem has become and is a call to all the nation that past
 efforts have been too small, too slow and too fragmented. The childhood
 obesity epidemic already is affecting millions of young lives, and we know
 enough now to foresee the future harm it will impose -- not only on our
 children's health and quality of life, but also on our economy and health
 care system."
     With this investment, RWJF will expand school-based programs; help
 states and communities coordinate their efforts, advocate for change, and
 evaluate impact; and encourage food and beverage companies to offer
 healthier products and change their marketing practices.
     For more information about the Foundation's commitment to reverse the
 childhood obesity epidemic, visit
     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 quality of 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

SOURCE Robert Wood Johnson Foundation