Since the 1970s, our national childhood obesity rate has more than tripled, rising from 5% to over 17%. Now holding steady, the percentage is still high compared to a generation ago, especially among low-income and minority children. A broad range of local, state, and federal initiatives aimed at increasing healthy eating and physical activity have been implemented, with varying levels of success. Profiles of areas reporting declines in childhood obesity offer an opportunity to explore why rates have dropped—especially among high-risk groups—in some communities but not in others.
For the first-of-its-kind Childhood Obesity Declines Project, ICF worked with RWJF and the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) to study and document the what, how, when, and where of community-based obesity strategies in four distinct communities across the nation. Project activities explored prevention efforts and the contextual factors that may be contributing to declines among at-risk populations in selected jurisdictions.
Findings showed that layering prevention strategies across multiple levels of a child’s environment—self, family, school, town, state, country--is best. Factors discovered to positively influence prevention strategies include stakeholder engagement, a champion within the community, and targeting efforts to those in greatest need. The COBD highlighted how communities that create and promote a culture of health are successfully tackling the childhood obesity epidemic.