In the United States, childhood obesity is an epidemic. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that 17 percent of children between ages 2 to 19 are obese. CDC data also show that since 1980 the prevalence of obesity among children and adolescents has nearly tripled. Childhood obesity is linked to a number of debilitating and expensive diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, several kinds of cancer, and other chronic conditions. Clearly, childhood obesity is one of the most pressing health issues facing children across the nation.

And that’s why here at the New England Alliance for Children’s Health, a program of Community Catalyst, we were excited to see that the CDC recently announced a new initiative aimed at addressing childhood obesity. The Childhood Obesity Demonstration Project was created by the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 (CHIPRA) and funded through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It will provide $25 million over a four year period to comprehensively identify effective health care and community approaches to reduce childhood obesity in the areas of supporting healthy dietary choices and promoting active living. Children aged two to twelve who are enrolled in CHIP are the target population for the project.

CDC chose only four grantees to participate in the project. Three grantees will serve as research facilities (the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, San Diego State University, and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health) that will identify strategies that are effective means to reduce childhood obesity and one grantee (the University of Houston) will serve as the evaluation center for the project and share lessons learned across identified strategies. The project will conclude in September 2015 at which time CDC will widely share the findings from the initiative and make recommendations about effective strategies to prevent childhood obesity among undeserved children.

What we learn from this project needs to inform policy choices at the federal, state and local level if we are going to make much needed progress on the childhood obesity epidemic. And thanks to CHIPRA and the ACA, we now have an even better chance of doing so.

—Patrick M. Tigue, Senior Policy Analyst