Natalie Digate Muth by Natalie Digate Muth

A cross-sector cadre of national and regional stakeholders that share the goal of reversing childhood obesity recently converged in New Jersey, the home state of the philanthropic behemoth Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). RWJF has invested $500 million to reverse childhood obesity by 2015, with special emphasis on low-income minority children, where the rates are highest and the problem is most stubborn.

With time running short to achieve this ambitious goal, RWJF, in partnership with the Clinton Foundation and Grantmakers In Health, sponsored “Closing the Gap in Childhood Obesity.” This forum was designed to bring stakeholders together and facilitate a concerted and widespread change in the U.S. to create a ‘Culture of Health’ for our children, especially those who are the most underserved and come from the most disadvantaged communities. I had the privilege of attending this event on behalf of ACE to represent the important role of the health and fitness professional in helping accomplish this goal.

The day kicked off with opening remarks from RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, who highlighted the disparity in prevalence and persistence of childhood obesity, even among those cities and communities where progress has been most pronounced. Just one area--Philadelphia—successfully lowered overall childhood obesity rates among ALL kids, even those from minority backgrounds. She advised that this city might be a model for all of us.

The forum was rooted in what we know works, and what is needed, to reverse childhood obesity. How to increase access to healthy foods and beverages and how to increase opportunities to be physically active were the main areas of focus. The Today Show anchor and correspondent and ACE Certified Personal Trainer Jenna Wolfe led the physical-activity panel. Panelist Caitlin Morris of Nike, Inc., offered a mantra that we should all have on repeat: “Active kids do better.” The bottom line is that we need to build activity into every child’s day and focus on the fun factor. If we do that, we have set the stage for kids to improve both health and academic performance.

Ultimately, the day-long event made clear that it is going to take a contribution from all of us—whether or not we think of ourselves as public health professionals—to create an environment for our kids that supports the healthy choice as the easy choice. To help build an environment that makes physical activity a part of everyday life and where healthy, real foods are readily available at an affordable price. It is all of our responsibility.

With more than 50,000 ACE Certified Professionals residing in every state and most communities across the country, this network of exercise and health coaching professionals is primed to play a major role in closing the gap and helping to build this healthy environment. Whether it is a major part of your livelihood, or a volunteer gesture, we want to hear what you are doing in your community to close the gap in childhood obesity, especially as it pertains to supporting a healthier food environment and increased physical activity for low-income youth.

The archived webcast for the full, day-long panel is available at