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October 21, 2012

President Bill Clinton Honored 251 U.S. Schools for Addressing Childhood Obesity

Alliance for a Healthier Generation revealed promising findings about the impact of its Healthy Schools Program

(LITTLE ROCK, ARK) October 21, 2013 - President Bill Clinton, co-founder of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, recognized 251 schools for becoming healthier places for students to learn and staff to work. The schools received national recognition awards at the seventh annual Healthy Schools Program Forum in Little Rock, Ark.

In addition to presenting awards, President Clinton also shared promising findings from an evaluation indicating that the Healthy Schools Program can help schools make substantial progress toward creating a healthier environment and that, when they do, students’ average body mass index (BMI), diet and physical activity improve. BMI is a calculation based on an individual’s height and weight that’s used to screen for potential weight-related problems.

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a national nonprofit organization founded by the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation, created the Healthy Schools Program to help reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity in the United States by 2015. The program is funded primarily by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), which also provided support for the evaluation

The Healthy Schools Program works with more than 15,000 schools across the nation, reaching more than 9 million students, as well as teachers and other school staff. As the largest effort of its kind, the program has the potential to inform similar efforts aimed at transforming schools into healthier places and preventing obesity among children and teens.

The Evaluation 

RMC Research Corporation conducted an independent evaluation of the Healthy Schools Program. The CDC Journal Preventing Chronic Disease published two peer-reviewed research papers on the findings from a cohort of 1,300 schools that enrolled in the program between 2007 and 2009 and were followed through 2010. Findings include:

  • Schools can make changes aimed at creating a healthier environment regardless of the student population they serve.
  • Schools that served students from lower-income families and students at high risk for obesity were just as likely and — in some cases — more likely to adopt health-promoting policies as schools that served students from higher-income families.
  • Schools that accessed and participated in more training and one-on-one support made the most progress in implementing policies and programs that support healthy eating and regular physical activity among students.
  • Schools across the country have designed innovative and low-cost strategies for promoting healthy eating and regular physical activity, while maintaining their focus on academic achievement.

A focused analysis of a sample of 21 randomly selected schools that enrolled in the Healthy Schools Program in 2006 also showed promising indications that when schools implement the program, students’ average BMI, diet and physical activity improve.

  • Children’s average BMI decreased significantly, bringing more kids into a healthy weight range, between 2007-2008 and 2009-2010.
  • Decreases were found primarily among middle school students.
  • Decreases were similar for both genders and across ethnic groups.
  • Elementary and middle school children drank significantly fewer sugar-sweetened beverages in the 2009-2010 school year than in the 2007-2008 school year.
  • Students who reduced their sugar-sweetened beverage consumption reduced their BMIs more than other children.
  • Schools that improved their competitive food and beverage policies saw the largest declines in average BMI.
  • All students reported spending more time in physical education in 2009-2010 than in 2007-2008.

The findings have implications for school-based obesity prevention policies being considered and implemented nationwide.

“The urgency to reverse childhood obesity for millions of children and teens drives us to seek innovative solutions,” President Clinton said. “The Healthy Schools Program shows us that school-based interventions work, and that every school can find ways to create healthier environments for students and staff.”

The Recognized Schools 

The 251 recognized schools hail from more than 25 states. The following cities boast multiple awardees: Atlanta; Boston; Dallas; Elizabeth, N.J.; Kansas City; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Miami; San Antonio; and Washington, D.C. Each school distinguished itself with healthy eating and physical activity programs and policies that meet or exceed stringent standards set by the Healthy Schools Program.

President Clinton delivered the keynote address at the recognition ceremony. Joining him in congratulating the schools were Dr. Donna Arnett, president of the American Heart Association, and John Govea, RWJF senior program officer.

“Every school in the nation should be a healthy school,” said Govea. “And the achievements of the schools celebrated today and the data from the evaluation show that it’s possible.”

Any U.S. school can enroll and receive free assistance to become a healthier place for students to learn and staff to work. Schools are eligible for National Recognition Awards at the Bronze, Silver, or Gold level based on the standards they achieve. The Healthy Schools Program has recognized more than 880 schools with awards since 2006.

“There is no single cause and no single solution to the childhood obesity epidemic, which is why the Healthy Schools Program’s comprehensive approach to making substantive changes in the culture of a school is so critical to its success,” Arnett noted.

To see the full list of schools recognized at this year’s event, read more about them, learn about the Healthy Schools Program and find out how any school can get involved, visit www.HealthierGeneration.org.

In addition to RWJF, the following organizations provided support for the 2012 Healthy Schools Program Forum: Konami Digital Entertainment, Sanofi US, Biospace Inc, Clorox, Skillastics, The Cooper Institute and Walgreens.


About the Alliance for a Healthier Generation 

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation works to address one of the nation’s leading public health threats – childhood obesity. The goal of the Alliance is to reduce the nationwide prevalence of childhood obesity by 2015, and to empower kids to make healthy lifestyle choices. Founded in 2005 by the American Heart Association and William J. Clinton Foundation, the Alliance works to positively affect the places that can make a difference to a child’s health: homes, schools, doctor’s offices and communities. To learn more about the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, visit www.HealthierGeneration.org

About the Robert Wood Johnson  

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, measureable and timely change. For 40 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org.  Follow the Foundation on Twitter www.rwjf.org/twitter or Facebook www.rwjf.org/facebook.