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Progress in Preventing Childhood Obesity: How Do We Measure Up?
ing of obesity prevalence (CDC, 2004). The Steps Program uses data from the BRFSS and YRBSS to monitor the progress that has been made in achieving behavioral and health outcomes at national and community levels (MacDonald et al., 2006). An evaluation of the 40 Steps Program communities funded nationwide is in progress.
Food Stamp Nutrition Education Program
USDA’s Food Stamp Nutrition Education (FSNE) program is an example of a federal innovation that encourages collaboration and that leverages resources. FSNE allows states to create social marketing networks, mobilize other organizations, and join efforts to conduct interventions with low-income participants to achieve healthier eating patterns and increased physical activity levels (Gregson et al., 2001; Hersey and Daugherty, 1999). Some states also encourage policy, systems, and environmental changes that increase access to foods and beverages that contribute to healthful diets and physical activity in low-income communities. Schools with limited resources are a common setting used by FSNE. In 2005, nearly all state Food Stamp Programs (FSP) submitted annual FSNE plans that qualified for federal financial participation funds, whereas only a decade earlier only seven states had done so. A review of state FSNE is near completion.
HealthierUS School Challenge
USDA’s HealthierUS School Challenge is a more recent USDA initiative aimed at encouraging positive changes by recognizing schools that are creating a healthy environment. To qualify, elementary schools must enroll in Team Nutrition, conduct school assessments, provide lunches that meet specific nutrient requirements, offer physical activity, and achieve 70 percent participation in NSLP. Recognition programs such as these could help in disseminating promising practices; however, it is important that the efforts be disseminated broadly to media, parent-teacher associations, and others to provide incentive for schools to participate.
It has been recommended that USDA improve coordination and strengthen linkages among its nutrition education efforts (GAO, 2004a), and state nutrition action plans are now required for USDA food and nutrition assistance programs. The committee encourages further efforts to develop policies that foster opportunities for collaboration among USDA programs relevant to childhood obesity prevention.