Junkfood Science: The State on behalf of children

October 13, 2007

The State on behalf of children

Fifteen more state governments were recently awarded one-year grants of $100,000 apiece in recognition of their Governors making childhood obesity a top priority. The awards were given by the National Governors Association for Best Practices.

Among the winners was New Mexico, recognized for going “above and beyond in progress with improving the health of children.” JFS recently looked at obesity and the well being of children in New Mexico, so we'll use it as an example. According to a New Mexico Department of Health press release, this grant will complement the efforts of the Governor who “approved 8 million of state funding to increase the number of physical education classes in elementary schools, $2.8 million to expand the school breakfast program and $2 million to fund after school enrichment programs that focus on school nutrition and activity.” Last year, the Department of Health brought together seven state departments managing 40 programs to form the first state government Interagency for the Prevention of Obesity. It will work with the New Mexico Healthier Weight Council.

As with all of these programs, weight is falsely equated with health.

What is the National Governors Association for Best Practices giving these grants out across the country? According to the NGA, through the NGA Center for Best Practices, it is “the collective voice of the nation’s governors... representing states on Capitol Hill and before the Administration on key federal issues to developing and implementing innovative solutions to public policy concerns.” In July, the NGA group had awarded grants to ten other states for their childhood obesity strategies.

The actual source of the money for these childhood obesity grants, however, comes from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It gave the NGA Center for Best Practices $562,854 on November 2, 2005, to hand out to states cooperating with RWJF initiatives; and gave another $1,322,166 on November 2, 2006. It gave the NGA Center for Best Practices another $95,899 on April 24, 2007 to “educate state leaders about healthy eating and active living issues.” And... well, you get the idea.

Among the members of the first Executive Committee of the NM Healthier Weight Council, which is managing the 40 childhood obesity programs across the state, is the director of the Alliance for Active Living. The Alliance is led by the “1000 Friends of New Mexico” partnership, which is funded through a 5-year grant from RWJF.

The Alliance for Active Living is a nationwide program, also of RWJF, which gives each partnership “$200,000 in grants, in addition to technical assistance to address community design, land use, transportation, architecture, trails, parks and other issues that influence healthier lifestyles.” It’s part of a network of national “Active Living” programs financed by RWJF, some of which were reviewed earlier. Among them is the Leadership for Active Living — a three year national initiative of RWJF to support state and local governments in efforts to create public policies on healthy eating and physical activity to curb childhood obesity. RWJF staff work at the partners and provide free technical assistance to governors. And what is a leading partner in Leadership for Active Living?

The National Governors Association for Best Practices.

So, perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that Governors and state legislators are enthusiastically getting behind a nonexistent epidemic of childhood obesity and deciding what’s best for our children.

This is just part of the $500 million RWJF is giving out over the next five years “to reverse the epidemic of childhood obesity.” There’s lots more to this story. Stay tuned.

© 2007 Sandy Szwarc

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