2003 Report to the Nation on How Schools Are Responding to Childhood Obesity Epidemic
Pyramid Communications, a Seattle-based strategic public affairs organization, produced a report for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) on school-based physical activity and healthy eating programs to help curb the nation's childhood obesity epidemic.
Healthy Schools for Healthy Kids is available online.
Pyramid then conducted a national media relations campaign to garner coverage for the report and its recommendations.
Previously, Pyramid conducted research on physical activity and healthy eating programs as part of RWJF's National Dialogue on Health project (ID# 042540).
Key Findings and Recommendations
The report contains:
- Findings from two national polls one of teachers, one of parents to assess opinions about physical activity and healthy eating in schools.
- Findings on the current situation.
- Findings on policies.
- Findings on in- and after-school programs.
- Recommendations for schools.
RWJF provided two grants totaling $339,024 from January 2003 to December 2003 to support this work.
Over the past two decade, the incidence of childhood obesity in the United States has skyrocketed, according to Time magazine (June 7, 2004): 15 percent of kids between six and 19 years old are overweight, and another 15 percent headed that way; just two decades ago the rate was "only a third of what it is today."
Schools, where children spend a good part of the day, play a role in this growing problem. Vending machines offering unhealthful food, inadequate policies on school lunches and the lack of programs to promote nutrition and physical activity are all contributing factors.
RWJF's Childhood Obesity Team is developing a strategy to contribute to efforts to halt the increase in the prevalence of obesity in children by the year 2015.
The focus of RWJF's work in addressing childhood obesity is on children and families in low-income and minority populations, concentrating on ages three to 12, an age range that represents a critical period for developing lifelong habits. Because there are few known, effective strategies for addressing the problem, RWJF will use multifaceted approaches, to be developed with partners at many levels.
The initial goals are to support innovative school and community pilot projects to reduce childhood obesity and to address the huge gaps in knowledge about the causes of obesity in children, particularly environmental factors such as the availability of junk food in schools and inadequate healthy food choices in local supermarkets.
The Childhood Obesity Team will also identify opportunities to build on and/or embed healthy eating any physical activity into existing child health initiatives funded by RWJF (e.g., the Center for Health and Health Care in Schools [see also Grant Results] and the Urban Health Initiative) and create opportunities to speak with and influence specific audiences regarding RWJF strategies.
Pyramid conducted research on this issue as part of RWJF's National Dialogue on Health project (ID# 042540).
With the initial grant (ID# 040695), Pyramid Communications identified and reviewed in-school and after-school physical activity and healthy eating programs in the United States, interviewing program leaders and conducting site visits to in-school programs.
The company also reviewed physical activity and nutrition-related policies at the federal, state, district and school levels. In addition, Pyramid commissioned two national polls one of teachers, one of parents to assess opinions about physical activity and healthy eating in schools.
The polls were conducted by Lake Snell Perry & Associates and Market Strategies. Pyramid produced a report for RWJF, Healthy Schools for Healthy Kids, which details findings on the current state of physical activity and nutrition practice and policy in schools, presents recommendations for increasing physical activity and healthy eating in schools and profiles exemplary programs. The report is available online.
With the follow-up grant (ID# 049823), Pyramid conducted a national media relations campaign to publicize its findings and promote possible school-based solutions to the childhood obesity epidemic. The campaign included both a print and video news release on the report, a question-and-answer sheet and a fact sheet with a detailed description of the two polls. The video news release aired on nearly 200 stations across the country; print coverage included articles in U.S. News & World Report, the Los Angeles Times, the Fort Worth Star Telegram and the Birmingham (Ala.) News.
The report, Healthy Schools for Healthy Kids, included the following recommendations:
- Provide physical education for every child every day in every grade.
- Implement physical education programs that include highly active fitness activities that are noncompetitive, teach individual goal-setting and maximize the time spent in moderate to vigorous activity.
- Conduct regular physical fitness testing in schools.
- Convert the contents of school vending machines to healthy foods and beverages, such as low-fat snacks and noncarbonated beverages.
- Improve school lunches by providing low-fat, healthy meals that are high in fresh produce and served in appropriate portion sizes.
GRANT DETAILS & CONTACT INFORMATION
Healthy Schools for Healthy Kids
Pyramid Communications (Seattle, WA)
- Gathering Information on Childhood Obesity Prevention
Amount: $ 324,771
Dates: January 2003 to July 2003
- Communications Support for Healthy Schools for Healthy Kids Report
Amount: $ 14,253
Dates: October 2003 to December 2003
(Current as of date of this report; as provided by grantee organization; not verified by RWJF; items not available from RWJF.)
Healthy Schools for Healthy Kids. Princeton, N.J.: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2003. Also appears online.
Report prepared by: Scott Edwards
Reviewed by: Robert Narus
Reviewed by: Molly McKaughan
Program Officer: Terry L. Bazzare
Program Officer: Jeane Ann Grisso