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Childhood Obesity Prevention Program

Childhood Obesity Prevention Program

In 2013, Healthcare Georgia Foundation launched a three-year Childhood Obesity Prevention Program in four diverse communities across Georgia, to create the conditions where prevention and reduction of childhood obesity can occur by developing local ordinances, policies, and modify the built environment to directly impact social norms and create supportive communities where making healthy lifestyle choices is a realistic and desirable option for individuals. 

The Foundation has a history of investing in evidence-based and or promising approaches to address public health issues and is considered a partner and a leader to the nonprofit community addressing childhood obesity. It is with this in mind that the Foundation is seeks to lead the way with the next generation of childhood obesity grantmaking. 

Rationale 
Childhood Obesity is a major problem in the United States and has become a national epidemic. In 2013, 12.7% of adolescents were obese. The south has been impacted by the childhood obesity epidemic at much higher rates than other regions of the U.S.; this is especially true for Georgia. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2013), 17.1 % of adolescents in Georgia grades 9-12 were considered overweight and 12.7 % were obese. The rates for young children are equally high. In 2013, 15.9% of children ages 2-5 years old were considered overweight and 13.2% were obese. Children who are overweight are more likely to be overweight or obese as adults. The Georgia Department of Public Health’s report on Overweight and Obesity estimates that approximately 6,700 Georgians die from obesity-related illnesses each year. The numbers of children developing chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and depression are increasing as the rates of obesity continue to remain high. 

The factors that contribute to the high rates of overweight and obesity are multifaceted and can’t be attributed to any one problem or one solution. The challenges range from cultural norms associated with food preparation and consumption, to less than adequate environmental conditions to support healthy lifestyle options for communities. Addressing the issue requires long-term commitment and investments that support comprehensive systemic changes within communities. 

Individual programs or singular initiatives which aren’t supported by strong policy and adequate environmental conditions are not likely to improve childhood obesity rates long-term or become sustainable. Strong local policies and favorable environmental conditions can serve to provide support and reduce barriers to successful implementation of childhood obesity programs thereby, providing the opportunity to drive changes in social norms and individual behavior. Utilizing policy and environmental strategies is a new way of thinking about how to effectively address obesity in a community. Policy and environmental change is about modifying the environment to make healthy choices practical and available to all community members. By changing laws and shaping physical landscapes, making healthier choices becomes a real and feasible option for every community member. 

Communities provide the context through which policy driven interventions focused on obesity prevention can be introduced to make meaningful changes for both children and adults. Children don’t make healthy lifestyles choices (i.e. healthy eating and or engaging in physical activity) in isolation from their families or communities. Therefore, funding initiatives should address the larger community in which children live and not be limited to any one system (e.g. schools, churches, or community based organizations). 

Program Overview
The purpose of the Childhood Obesity Prevention Program is to support to nonprofit organizations affiliated with an established community collaborative or coalition, to conduct activities designed to prevent and reduce childhood obesity by engaging in comprehensive community-wide efforts to implement local policies and restructure the built environment to support active living and healthy eating. Grantees partner with local health and wellness coalitions to create the conditions in communities where prevention and reduction of childhood obesity can occur by developing local ordinances, policies, and modifying the built environment to directly impact social norms and create supportive communities where making healthy lifestyle choices is a realistic and desirable option for children and their families. A team of technical assistance providers assist grantees with executing the activities identified in their community action plans designed to achieve the intended goals of COPP. 

Grantees

  • Cobb County Health Futures Foundation-Cobb 20/20 Coalition ($308,000)
  • Cook County Family Connection ($250,000)
  • Georgia College & State University Foundation-Live Healthy Baldwin Coalition ($250,000)
  • YMCA of Coastal Georgia-Healthy Savannah ($250,000)

Technical Assistance Providers

  • Georgia State University Foundation-Institute of Public Health: support to provide policy technical assistance to each grantee. 
  • Family Health International 360 (FHI): support to provide social media/social marketing communications training and technical assistance to each grantee. 
  • ICF Macro: support to conduct cross-site evaluation of COPP program and provide evaluation technical assistance support to each grantee.