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Progress in Preventing Childhood Obesity: How Do We Measure Up?
throughout California (California Endowment, 2006). As part of the HEAC initiative, adolescents involved in the Youth Study are using digital cameras to provide images of their physical activity and eating environments and will engage in discussions about evaluating the need for environmental changes (Craypo et al., 2006).
Active Living by Design and Active Living Leadership initiatives, through the support of RWJF are using the expertise of a diverse group of professionals—such as urban planners and designers, environmentalists, asthma control activists, leisure and travel industry specialists, economists, and public policy advocates and decision makers—to explore the possibilities for greater community efforts to increase the levels of physical activity among children and youth (Active Living Leadership, 2004). Recently, RWJF launched the Healthy Eating Research initiative, which places special emphasis on building a field of research that will benefit children in low-income and different racial/ethnic populations at the highest risk for obesity by improving their eating habits (RWJF, 2006). Some foundations coordinate their efforts with those of industry, government, and other sectors to fully leverage resources and scale up programs and initiatives. For example, the Alliance for a Healthy Generation, described in Chapters 2, 5, and 7 is designed as an extensive collaborative effort involving foundations, nonprofit organizations, industry, and state government leadership. However, evaluations are needed to assess the effectiveness of the Alliance.
One of the strengths of local, statewide, and regional foundations is their familiarity with the cultural assets and demographic characteristics of the areas they serve and their ability to focus grants and funding opportunities on innovative projects that build on local assets. The committee, through its three regional symposia, had the opportunity to learn more about the community-based obesity prevention programs and initiatives funded by the Kansas Health Foundation, the Sunflower Foundation, the Healthcare Georgia Foundation, the Missouri Foundation for Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. Some corporate foundations are also active partners in childhood obesity prevention efforts at the community level (Chapter 5).
As foundations across the nation continue in their commitment to childhood obesity prevention, it is important to build on their strengths and to identify the ways in which foundations can be most effective. For example, foundations often have greater flexibility in their funding mechanisms than government agencies so that they can more quickly explore untested or promising approaches or respond more rapidly to evaluations of natural experiments (discussed later in this chapter). Further, foundations are often effective in partnering with organizations that can sustain the activity if it is proven efficacious, efficient, and culturally and socially appropriate.