Grants Will Create Childhood Obesity Prevention Centers of Excellence

Albany, NY, August 1, 2007 - State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., today announced five-year grants totaling approximately $4 million to establish three Centers for Best Practices to Prevent and Reduce Childhood Obesity in New York State.

"Childhood obesity has reached crisis levels and threatens the health, well-being, and future productivity of New York's youth," Commissioner Daines said. "The creation of these Centers for Best Practices is one of many ways we are working to protect the health of New York's children and future adults."

The following organizations will each receive up to $266,000 per year for five years to address the epidemic of childhood obesity by creating model programs that promote optimal growth, development, and lifestyle habits during pregnancy, infancy, childhood, and adolescence:

  • The Research Foundation of the State University of New York (SUNY), which will locate its Center for Best Practices at SUNY Stony Brook, where it will develop training strategies for health-care providers in Nassau and Suffolk counties to screen, identify and counsel pregnant women to ensure optimal weight gain, while preventing overweight. The Center will also create environments that promote and support breastfeeding at home, in worksites and at childcare centers. The Center will also implement community education workshops to promote healthy eating by mothers and their infants.
  • The Foundation for Healthy Living, with offices in Latham and Buffalo, will collaborate with health plans, health-care provider organizations, federally qualified community health centers, primary care practice-based research networks, and regional and community-based organizations in Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Warren, Washington, Erie and Niagara counties to promote obesity prevention education messages during early childhood. The Foundation will develop a community awareness campaign about the health risks of childhood obesity and suggest ways parents can reduce their children's risk for overweight and obesity. It will also create a training program for health-care providers and community-based organizations to increase nutrition and physical activity counseling of parents of pre-school children.
  • New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City will integrate and coordinate community, school and clinical efforts to prevent childhood obesity in school-age children in New York City. It will create a culturally appropriate community awareness campaign and train health-care providers to better counsel families on obesity prevention. It will also implement a computerized medical record system to screen for childhood obesity using Body Mass Index-for-age percentiles.

Obesity affects youth at all ages and is increasing even among New York's youngest children. A State study of children enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) found that the prevalence of obesity among children 2 to 5 years old increased from 12 percent in 1989 to 16 percent in 2005. Studies among elementary school-age children in New York State found that one in four children is obese.

Obesity is associated with increased prevalence of Type 2 diabetes in children, a form of diabetes previously seen only in adults. In adults, obesity contributes to many chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, joint problems, and some types of cancer.

Obesity is also responsible, in part, for increased health-care costs. According to the National Governors Association Report on Healthy Living, obesity is directly related to $93 billion in medical expenses in the United States, translating to $210 per taxpayer in New York State.

"Obesity prevention must start early in life," Dr. Daines said. "These new Centers for Best Practices will serve as statewide models to prevent obesity through screening, education, and other interventions targeted to children who are overweight, obese, or at risk of becoming so."

Dr. Daines also announced grants of up to $125,000 a year for five years will be awarded to two agencies to address the childhood obesity epidemic in school and community environments by creating community coalitions with schools and parents.

The Health Association of Niagara County Inc. will target children ages 6-19 in five school districts to address policy change at the school system level and target high-need populations at increased risk for overweight and obesity by making environmental changes in school and after-school community-based organizations.

The Columbia County Community Health Care Association Inc. will target children in kindergarten through eighth grade, as well as their teachers and parents in six school districts, to address changes in food services, physical activity in before- and after-school programs, and TV/media reduction.

Commissioner Daines noted that these grants are part of Governor Spitzer's comprehensive strategy to address the epidemic of childhood obesity in New York State. Additional Governor's initiatives include:

  • The creation of a Children's Cabinet, whose agenda includes reducing childhood obesity as well as expanding children's access to health insurance and opportunities for pre-kindergarten programs.
  • The creation of a Council on Food Policy that will focus on increasing access by families to affordable, fresh, healthy, nutritious food, especially locally grown and organically grown food.
  • Development of a Comprehensive Disease Prevention Program, including obesity prevention.
  • Implementation of a new program requiring Body Mass Index screening and report as part of each student's school health appraisal.
  • Legislation known as the "Healthy Schools Act" to promote good nutrition and healthy eating habits in schools.
  • Distribution of an Body Mass Index (BMI) Screening Toolkit by the Department of Health to help health-care professionals screen children for risk of obesity and provide counseling about nutrition and exercise to children and parents.
  • A $500,000 grant award to the New York State Child Care Coordinating Council to support a new obesity prevention initiative based in child day-care centers.