April 5, 2007

Foundation puts its money where our children's mouths are

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation said Wednesday it would spend $500 million over the next five years to combat an "epidemic" of childhood obesity.

Childhood obesity is threatening the health of one-third of the nation's young people. Nearly 25 million children age 17 and younger are considered obese or overweight, costing $14 billion a year in medical expenses, the foundation said.

Childhood obesity is one of the most urgent and serious health threats confronting our nation. It deserves a serious response.

That's why the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will commit at least $500 million over the next five years to fight childhood obesity. The Foundation's goal is to reverse the epidemic in the United States by 2015.

This is the largest commitment any foundation has made to combat childhood obesity. As we embrace this new challenge, we expect to build on the lessons drawn from our past work on other critical health issues, such as preventing tobacco use and helping to roll out the nation's 9-1-1 emergency response system.

Childhood obesity affects all of us—every race and ethnic group, all income levels and every area of the country. It's going to take all of us—government, schools, food and beverage companies, health care providers, families and other foundations—to turn the tide.

Foundation President Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., calls the situation a real and present danger:

Q: Is childhood obesity a real epidemic?
A: Yes. The prevalence of childhood obesity is excessive and rapidly escalating, with severe clinical consequences. All communities and populations are adversely affected, particularly low-income communities. Left unabated, the epidemic will overwhelm health care delivery and financing systems and destabilize health programs and other services for children, the elderly and the poor.

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