Ensuring children grow up at a healthy weight through collaboration

School Breakfast and School Lunch at Washington-Lee High School Arlington, VirginiaLast week, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation hosted a First Friday Google+ hangout focused on its renewed commitment to helping all children in the United States grow up at a healthy weight. Susan Dentzer, Senior Policy adviser to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, monitored a discussion among three panelists deeply engaged with the issue:

  • Ginny Ehrlich, Director, Childhood Obesity, RWJF
  • Maya Rockeymoore, President, Center for Global Policy Solutions
  • Ed Foster-Simeon, President and CEO, U.S. Soccer Foundation

Each panelist voiced strategies on how to utilize partnerships to eliminate the health disparities that contribute to higher obesity rates among children of color and children living in poverty. Collaboration between foundations and business to both learn from each other and work together is crucial, said Ginny Ehrlich. She cited a cross-collaboration in Philadelphia wherein the City partnered with the local Chinese Restaurant Association to reduce sodium in the prepared food that many low-income people were consuming.

Another key strategy in helping children grow up at a health weight is securing safe places for children to play, said Ed Foster-Simeon. He outlined the way the U.S. Soccer Foundation has worked with teachers and schools to increase the amount of active play in a school day. His organization trains teachers and parents how to coach soccer even if they have never played soccer before. This, he said, gets parents and children to be more active. Both he and Maya Rockeymoore pointed a third strategy: Policy change is critical for addressing the growing problem of childhood obesity.

At The Intersector Project, we were especially interested in hearing how partnerships and intersector collaborations can move the dial on complex problems such as childhood obesity. And the panelists did not disappoint; each made it clear that government needs to take action and work alongside businesses and nonprofits to end obesity in America. The panelists pointed out that playtime is being stripped from schools and that school lunches often do not provide healthy options for young children, both areas that highlight potential opportunities for cross-sector collaboration.


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