New-Orleans-one-of-41-sites-selected-for-national-program-to-fight-childhood-obesity

New Orleans one of 41 sites selected for national program to fight childhood obesity

New Orleans one of 41 sites selected for national program to fight childhood obesity
Fitting New Orleans – Issue 6
January 26, 2010

The Prevention Research Center (PRC) at Tulane University has been awarded a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to improve opportunities for physical activity for children and families in New Orleans. New Orleans is one of 41 sites selected from over 500 proposals for the RWJF Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities initiative.

In New Orleans, where approximately 20 percent of the population is under age 18, and 33.5 percent of high school students are either overweight or obese, reshaping environments to make it easier for youth to be physically active in their daily lives is critical. Hurricane Katrina took a toll on the number of dedicated play spaces for children, and the current roadway infrastructure makes walking or biking to school a challenge.

The Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities initiative established the KidsWalk coalition in New Orleans to increase physical activity levels of children and families by providing environments that facilitate walking and bicycling for both transportation and recreation.

"The KidsWalk coalition recognizes the need to improve the physical environment in New Orleans, and is inspired by the opportunity to develop healthier neighborhoods by improving the roads that connect communities," said Kathryn Parker-Karst, assistant director of the Tulane PRC and director of the Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities initiative. "Children will be active if given a safe dedicated space to do so."

The KidsWalk coalition's first task will be to broaden and strengthen its membership to ensure that all stakeholders are represented. The coalition will then conduct an assessment to identify high-priority policy and environmental changes.

"Disaster recovery dollars used to repave damaged roadways and install bike lanes are one example of the unprecedented opportunities that exist to use local policy to implement environmental changes in New Orleans," said Parker-Karst.

Making roadways more conductive to active transportation will also help the one-third of households in New Orleans without access to a car visit grocery stores and other fresh food retailers.

"To reverse this epidemic, communities are going to have to rally around their kids and provide the opportunities they need to be healthy," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., MBA, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "Through this project, the Tulane University PRC and its partners are doing what it takes to make sure children lead better lives."

Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities is a $33 million national program and RWJF's largest investment to date in community-based solutions to childhood obesity. With nine Leading Sites chosen in late 2008, the program now spans 50 communities from Seattle to Puerto Rico. All are targeting improvements in local policies and their community environment-changes that research indicates could have the greatest impact on healthier eating, more active living and obesity prevention. Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities is a cornerstone of RWJF's $500 million commitment to reverse the country's childhood obesity epidemic by 2015.

Click here to learn more about the KidsWalk Coalition, and how you can get involved. Visit www.healthykidshealthycommunities.org to learn more about the communities' work.

Click here to sign up for “Fitting New Orleans.”

Topics:   childhood obesity , sidewalks

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