May 08
May 8, 2014

Raising Awareness on the Childhood Obesity Epidemic


Today, more than 23.5 million children and adolescents in the United States—nearly one-third of young people ages 2 to 19—are overweight or obese, putting them at risk for serious, and even life-threatening health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and asthma. Not only does childhood obesity negatively affect children’s health, quality of life, and developmental potential, but it also poses a significant financial threat to the American economy. In 2011, $14 billion in direct health care costs were attributed to childhood obesity. Although decreasing childhood obesity rates is complex, progress is being made by identifying systematic and environmental influences.

One of the major contributing factors to childhood obesity is access. Access to healthy food and safe areas for physical activity is unavailable to many children and families in the United States. This access is disproportionate across socioeconomic groups, with low-income and minority communities having less. Consequently, 39 percent of African American and Latino youth are overweight or obese, in comparison to 28 percent of white children. Reversing this epidemic, by providing access to affordable and nutritious food, as well as safe physical activity space, is crucial in making our whole nation stronger, healthier, and more economically productive.

Grantmakers In Health (GIH), an educational nonprofit dedicated to helping foundations and corporate giving programs improve the health of all people by strengthening the grantmaking community’s knowledge, skills, and effectiveness, has been committed to reducing the rates of childhood obesity for over a decade. Most recently, GIH has focused on policy developments and improving access to nutritious food and physical activity.

GIH uses multiple platforms—meetings, forums, webinars, and publications—to bring together grantmakers and health experts, and to provide educational tools. Recent GIH programming on childhood obesity has concentrated on the importance of interventions in early childhood and in childcare settings. These meetings focused on early childhood obesity prevention policies, highlighting recent successes, remaining challenges, and areas where philanthropic support could influence smart policy change that would provide families with improved support and engagement related to child health.

On Thursday, May 8, GIH is excited to join the Clinton Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to host, “Closing the Gap in Childhood Obesity: A Forum Without Walls,” which will focus on addressing access and equity barriers in order to close childhood obesity gaps in the United States. The forum will bring together more than 200 thought leaders from business, philanthropy, health, education, and nonprofits to focus on solutions to the challenges that prevent kids from having access to healthier foods, physical activity, and health care. Although the event will take place in Newark, New Jersey, anyone around the country can tune into the Livestream at Join the online conversation by using the hashtag #KidsHealthMatters.

Childhood obesity is one of the greatest challenges that our nation currently faces and one that must be addressed presently. We are excited to welcome you into this important conversation, and we look forward to providing unique insights and solutions. 

Grantmakers In Health (GIH) is a nonprofit, educational organization dedicated to helping foundations and corporate giving programs improve the health of all people. Its mission is to foster communication and collaboration among grant makers and others, and to help strengthen the grantmaking community’s knowledge, skills, and effectiveness. Learn more at