BOX 6-7

Physicians as Advocates for Healthy Communities

The California Medical Association (CMA) Foundation began its Physicians for Healthy Communities initiative in 2005 to coordinate the obesity prevention efforts of California’s physicians with the healthy eating and physical activity programs run by the California Nutrition Network in schools, community organizations, and local and state government. The California Nutrition Network for Healthy, Active Families is a project of the California Department of Health Services funded by the Food Stamp Program. The CMA Foundation enlisted the support of 40 county medical societies, 37 ethnic physician organizations, and several specialty medical societies. During the first year of the project nearly 150 “physician champions” were identified. In 2006, 250 physician champions were being trained to become educators and advocates for healthy eating and physical activity in schools and communities throughout the state. The CMA Foundation provides physicians with training opportunities, tool kits for working with schools and underserved populations, and guidelines for talking about obesity prevention with patients during patient visits ( The CMA Foundation’s Physicians for Healthy Communities Initiative is supported by the California Department of Health Services, Kaiser Permanente, Blue Shield of California, and LA Care Health Plan.

SOURCE: CMA Foundation (2006).

and ofen include a specific focus on children and youth (Kertesz, 2006b; NIHCM Foundation, 2006). A new effort by America’s Health Insurance Plans includes a focus on mini-grants that are awarded to further research on obesity-related interventions. Health plans are developing educational materials and programs for patients and clinicians. For example, CIGNA has developed an online tool kit for physicians to assist them with counseling parents and older youth about childhood obesity (Kertesz, 2006a). Kaiser Permanente has recently instituted BMI as a vital sign that is assessed during clinical visits and as an outcome measure that can be tracked as part of the electronic medical record system (Box 6-8).

Health plans are also involved in community- and school-based programs. In 1998, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts began a youth wellness program, Jump Up and Go!, which involves developing partnerships with community-based organizations to provide physical activity programs, school initiatives, health professional educational components, and educational materials to assist pediatric clinicians with counseling children and their parents (Jump Up and Go!, 2006). Other innovative approaches include the Kaiser Permanente worksite farmers markets in California that offer patients and employees the opportunity to purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, and other foods and beverages that contribute to a healthful diet

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