Special Feature — Reaching Communities with Barriers to Healthy Weight

With nearly one in three American children still living at an unhealthy weight, it’s clear we’re facing a significant challenge. That challenge is even greater when it comes to children of color and those living in low-income communities. About 32.5 percent of African American children are overweight or have obesity and 38.9 percent of Latinos, compared to 28.5 percent of Caucasian children. These trends carry through to adulthood, leading to serious health consequences, such as disproportionate rates for diabetes and, ultimately, higher mortality rates.

PHA is working to make healthier choices easier for all families in America. However, we place special emphasis upon helping those communities that are hardest hit by childhood obesity and least able to take steps to combat it. When discussing commitments with new partners, our staff has been trained to do so through a lens that assesses the impact they will have upon the nation’s most vulnerable children. PHA is committed to reducing inequities in health and to exploring new ways to do so through all of the work that we do.

Our partners tackle inequities through a wide range of strategies. Our convenience and grocery store partners recognize that too often, people living in low-income communities lack access to full-service grocery stores where fresh, healthy food can be found at affordable prices, and they’re trying to change that. Ahead of its 2016 deadline, Walmart opened or renovated a total of 392 stores in or around food-scarce areas, exceeding its commitment by 117 stores. By opening new stores, renovating old ones or expanding their offerings of fruits, vegetables and other nutritious foods, our partners have increased access to healthier choices for millions of customers. PHA convenience store partners have more than 1000 locations across the country, reaching over 1.6 million low-income individuals.

We’re also helping to teach low-income families with children better ways to manage their children’s health and nutrition. PHA partner One Medical is working to offer 500 low-income families free access to Rise, its nutrition-coaching app, for three months. The healthy eating habits they are learning from the app are having a lifelong effect.

PHA partners are also working to make sure children in vulnerable communities have access to safe places to play and high quality sports and recreational programming. Our partners have reached more than 700,000 low-income children with physical activity programs, while others are designing low-income housing featuring exercise equipment for children and adults, indoor and outdoor recreation spaces and community gardens.

700,000 low-income children reached with physical activity programs by our partners

Many of our Healthier Campus Initiative partners – which include several historically black universities, community colleges, tribal colleges, and Hispanic-serving institutions – reach low-income students through food pantry programs stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables and other nutritious staples. The University of North Florida has linked its food pantry and on-campus organic garden so that it can educate food-insecure students about good nutrition while providing them with free, local, organic produce.

As we move forward, PHA will continue to look for opportunities to lower the barriers to good health, so that all children in America – regardless of race, ethnicity or income-level – share the same opportunities to grow up at a healthy weight.

Next: Our Journey Continues

Related Reading