October 31, 2007

2 Min Read
Combating Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity is one of our nations leading health threats. Today, about 12 million kids are overweight, and 12 million more are at risk for overweight. The obesity epidemic is clearly taking its toll, as more and more kids are developing conditions and diseases typically associated with adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three individuals born in the year 2000 will develop type 2 diabetes. In vulnerable populations, that increases to one in two. If obesity among kids continues to increase, many believe this current generation of young people will become the first in American history to live shorter lives than their parents.

To combat this growing epidemic, in May 2005, the American Heart Association, Dallas, and the William J. Clinton Foundation, New York, partnered to form the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, based in New York City. The Alliance is taking a broad, innovative approach toward the goal of halting the increase of childhood obesity by 2010, and helping all children live longer and healthier lives. The Alliance has four areas of focus:

  • Empowering kids to start making lifelong healthy choices now;

  • Creating an environment where healthy schools are the norm;

  • Working with the private sector to increase childrens access to healthier foods and beverages, and physical activity;

  • Launching new health-care programs.

Schools are a powerful place to shape the health, education and well-being of its students, teachers and staff. Every day, 53 million people go to school to work or learn. Today, as part of its Healthy Schools Program, the Alliance is working with more than 1,800 schools through local, hands-on support or via its website and call center, and will be in 30,000 schools by 2010. One of the programs goals is to put more nutritious and lower-calorie foods and beverages in vending machines, school stores, snack carts and cafeterias by working within the current constraints of the school setting and with the vendors who serve them.

To help achieve this goal, the Alliance is working with leading companies and trade associations in the food and beverage industries to develop and implement School Beverage Guidelines and Competitive Foods Guidelines supported by public-health advocates, manufacturers and trade associations. These guidelines set nutritional standards, reduce the number of calories, and limit portion sizes available to students before, during and after school. Companies are reformulating existing products, developing new products and actively promoting these products to the school channel.

Brian Herr is executive director for the Alliance for a Healthy Generation, New York. He joined the Alliance as industry director, where he negotiated agreements with food and beverage manufacturers to set nutritional guidelines for foods and beverages offered in schools, and defined cooperative relationships to achieve their adoption. Contact Herr at [email protected]

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