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Blue Foundation launches $8 million Florida study of child obesity

John Commins, for Florida HealthFlash, May 22, 2008

The Blue Foundation for a Healthy Florida has launched an $8 million, four-year statewide initiative to determine what's causing nearly one-third of Florida's children to be either overweight or obese.

"We are taking action beyond traditional nutrition and fitness programs," says Susan Towler, executive director of The Blue Foundation, the nonprofit philanthropic affiliate of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida. "Through strategic philanthropy, Embrace a Healthy Florida will foster environments that promote healthy lifestyles for children."

The rate of childhood obesity in the United States has more than tripled since 1980, and Florida's kids are leading the way. About 32.5% of Florida children between the ages of 10 and 17 are either overweight or obese. Along with numerous physical health risks, overweight and obese children are shown to suffer higher rates of depression, greater difficulty in peer relationships, and poorer quality of life than their normal weight counterparts.

The Blue Foundation's four-year strategic initiative will address the causes of childhood obesity through public-private partnerships with community nonprofit, nongovernmental agencies, governmental agencies, and leaders who are already addressing childhood obesity. The initiative will support community-based programs that promote change in families and parenting, childcare centers and schools, neighborhood recreation opportunities, and other influences on the accessibility of healthy food and physical activity.

Focusing on Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Tampa, and Tallahassee, the threephase effort will provide grants to nonprofit organizations, fund research, and foster community collaboration.

John Commins