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More than 90 percent of elementary schools do not provide daily physical education.

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Dr. Robert Cluck, Mayor, Arlington, Texas

mayor_cluck.jpgFor Dr. Robert Cluck, childhood obesity is a deeply personal and professional issue. Before he was mayor of Arlington, Texas, he was an obstetrician-gynecologist for 28 years, and as the Vice President for Medical Affairs at Arlington Memorial Hospital, he continues to manage other doctors. Cluck knows first hand that obesity can have a devastating impact on children as they grow older. "It's frustrating particularly because I am a doctor," he says about his struggle to highlight the dangers of obesity. "I just know what the outcomes are, and they are not good."

Cluck was inspired to help bring about change when he began noticing increasing numbers of obese children in Arlington, a city of over 350,000 between Dallas and Fort Worth. Because he recognized that obese children are likely to become obese adults, and face other serious health problems such as diabetes, Cluck decided to dedicate himself to preventing childhood obesity in Arlington.

Cluck began by working with the local school district and the superintendent to improve food offerings in schools. Soft drink machines were removed, and more nutritious foods are now available. The school also began encouraging students to measure their physical activity by counting their footsteps. "Prior to every summer," Cluck says, "we have meetings with kids outdoors and we give them pedometers. We challenge them to weigh themselves on that day and then when they come back to school in three months, to weigh themselves again." Prizes are given out depending on weight loss, and Cluck says the effort has been popular and successful. 

Dallas's NFL team, the Cowboys, may also be recruited to encourage children to be more physically activity. A new stadium for the team is being built in Arlington - it's set for completion in 2009 - and the league and players will soon begin reaching out to encourage physical fitness among the area's children. Cluck says that, in his experience, leading by example produces the best results. "It's easy to tell people to go out there and walk, but you really have to try and set examples," he says.

The city has built a large trail where citizens can walk and roller blade. The trail is eight miles long now, and will soon be expanded to twelve. "We've pretty well mobilized our entire parks department to help with these projects," Cluck says, "because obviously they are the ones that are out there on most days in the parks and trails."

Cluck credits his strong working relationship with his superintendent as being a decisive factor in raising awareness about childhood obesity. If the superintendent can "get access to the classrooms or the schools with novel programs such as the use of pedometers," Cluck says, "they will be successful. I think the partnerships are what make all this work. I couldn't do this all by myself."

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Announcements

  • 1139 hitsAndy Fountain
    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEContact: Andy FountainFebruary 26, 2014                                       (202) 265-5112 Findings reinforce the need for policies to reduce childhood obesity WASHINGTON—The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced that obesity rates among two- to five-year olds have declined over the past decade. Leadership for Healthy Communities, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, recognizes the significance of these findings and applauds the countless efforts of policy-makers, community leaders, parents, and school officials nationwide who are dedicated to reducing and preventing childhood obesity. 
  • 1939 hitsAndy Fountain
    For Immediate Release                                Contact: Andrew SousaJune 27, 2013                                        (202) 265-5112 New standards will help ensure healthier options in schools nationwide WASHINGTON—Leadership for Healthy Communities, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, announced support for the interim final rule released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that helps ensure that all snacks and drinks sold in vending machines, school stores and alongside school meals in the cafeteria are healthy. “Millions of children will benefit from having healthier options because of the updated USDA standards for snacks and drinks sold in schools—where many of our kids consume up to half their daily calories,” said Maya Rockeymoore, director of Leadership for Healthy Communities. “Policy changes that make it easier for kids and families to eat healthier foods are helping to improve the health of our communities, and it’s important that schools implement these new standards as quickly as possible.”
  • 2421 hitsAndy Fountain
    For Immediate Release                                 Contact: Andrew SousaJanuary 16, 2013                                         (202) 265-5112 Funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will help state and local leaders increase opportunities for physical activity, healthy eating WASHINGTON — Six national policy-maker associations have received a total of $1.8 million in grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to help communities increase children’s access to affordable healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity. The grants were awarded through Leadership for Healthy Communities, an RWJF national program that assists state and local leaders in their efforts to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic. The associations were selected because their members are uniquely positioned to work across multiple levels of government and across intra-governmental agencies and departments to eliminate barriers to healthy eating and active living in schools and communities.
  • 2917 hitsAndy Fountain
    For Immediate Release                 Contact: Andrew Sousa                   (202) 265-5112         \n This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. June 29, 2012 LEADERSHIP FOR HEALTHY COMMUNITIES APPLAUD U.S. SUPREME COURT DECISION ON ACA WASHINGTON - Leadership for Healthy Communities applauds the decision by the United States Supreme Court to uphold the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as constitutional. The Prevention and Public Health Fund created by ACA has increased the national investment in prevention and public health, including efforts to improve nutrition, increase physical activity, and reduce obesity-related conditions and health care costs. Chronic diseases related to obesity – such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes – are responsible for seven of 10 deaths among Americans each year and account for 75 percent of the nation’s health spending.

Leadership for Healthy Communities is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation