“Voices for Healthy Kids” a new joint initiative of the Robert Wood Foundation and the American Heart Association has just launched their new website. Another key player added to the coordinated efforts to eradicate childhood obesity. Voices for Healthy Kids is attacking the obesity epidemic on a community level with the help of a panel of experts.
Although childhood obesity is a national issue it is imperative to get to the source of the problem at a more micro-level, the community and its people. A child’s home, parents, siblings, peers, school, and environment are all factors that play a role in producing overweight youth. However, these same factors also have the power to do the opposite.
Voices for Healthy Kids seeks to garner support and has called to action individuals in the community as well as state policymakers. The agency has focused their efforts on the following six areas that if changed can help to prevent childhood obesity.
1. “Smart School Foods”
Most children spend a majority of their day in a school setting and may even get 2 out of 3 meals plus snacks from a school lunch program. Without a parent monitoring food choices, children are more likely to choose less healthy foods. Voices for Healthy Kids is seeking to improve the nutritional quality of school foods by enhancing standards and working with food service providers and using healthier fund raising guidelines. One notable goal is to make water a more accessible beverage option.
Their Expert – Pew Charitable Trust
2. “Marketing Matters”
Children are bombarded with advertisements of popular unhealthy food choices during their favorite television shows. Research has shown that most children spend an average of 3 hours a day watching television. This perfect storm has the ability to instill poor eating habits in children. Voices for Healthy Kids goals in this area is to encourage food and beverage companies to modify their advertising tactics and promote more healthy food options, healthy restaurant offerings for children, and to eliminate unhealthy food advertising in schools. It will interesting to see if the welfare of children is more important than the “almighty dollar”.
Their Expert - Berkeley Media Studies Group (BMSG)
3. “Active Places”
Voices for Healthy Kids seeks to provide more opportunities for children to engage in physical activity with increasing accessibility to more parks, biking lanes, playgrounds and walking paths as well as making school facilities open to the public when school is not in session. This is important given that sedentary behaviors such as television viewing, playing computer games and using electronic devices is prevalent with today’s young people. Voices for Healthy Kids is also working to make changes in policy on a state level.
Their Expert – Safe Routes to School National Partnership
4. “Healthy Drinks”
It is estimated that about 20% of a young person’s diet consists of Sugar Sweetened Beverages (SSB’s) and is a source of the daily caloric intake for many children, contributing to obesity issues with this population. Voices for Healthy Kids is employing tactics such as pricing incentives, campaigns, collaborating with state and local health departments and restaurants as well as food retailers to shift the focus from SSB’s to more healthy options.
Their Expert – Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity
5. “Food Access”
It’s counterproductive to promote healthy eating in communities when many people may not even have access to healthy foods! Research has shown that many underserved and minority populations do not have the same access to fresh meats and produce as more affluent neighborhoods. The nearest supermarket can be miles away and not accessible by public transportation. Voices for Healthy Kids is seeking to increase access to affordable and healthy foods for these communities.
Their Expert - The Food Trust
6. “Active Kids Out of School”
The most common time for youth to engage in sedentary activities is at home. I’m sure most people have witnessed the ability for a teenager to text, check their Facebook page, and Tweet while watching “The Vampire Diaries” and eating a McFlurry. Many households are on tight financial budgets that do not allow for paid after school activities. Voices for Healthy Kids is seeking to increase children’s physical activity levels while out-of-school and increase the physical activity standards in existing after school programs.
Their Expert - The YMCA of the USA
If you are up for the challenge find out ways to support the mission of “Voices for Healthy Kids”!