- Report Published -
|Obesity Prevention Funding for Community-Based Organizations in the Commonwealth|
|Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth|
|Appropriation Act - Item 467 B.3. (Special Session I, 2012)|
|During the 2009 General Assembly session, the General Assembly directed the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (VFHY) Board of Trustees to devote at least $1 million per year from VFHY’s budget exclusively toward childhood obesity prevention efforts on the community level.|
The majority of this funding has been dedicated to VFHY’s Healthy Communities Action Teams (HCAT) program.
In 2012, VFHY awarded its second round of two-year HCAT childhood obesity prevention grants. VFHY awarded more than $1.2 million in HCAT grants over FY 2013 and 2014 to establish and/or support 18 community coalitions across Virginia to fight childhood obesity on the local level. Funding and training provided by VFHY through the HCAT grants allow these community organizations to implement identified promising practices in childhood obesity prevention suggested by the national Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In FY 2013, HCAT grant recipients will receive $609,399. (A list of grant recipients can be found on page 10 of this report.)
VFHY’s HCAT grantees implement a variety of CDC-suggested strategies for childhood obesity prevention, such as working with or establishing farmers’ markets to increase community access to fresh produce; increasing physical activity in children enrolled in afterschool programs; creating and maintaining community gardens; increasing breastfeeding; and increasing awareness of good nutrition habits. HCAT grantees, which were selected by an independent grants application review panel, are required to comply with VFHY evaluation and reporting procedures.
Communities being served by VFHY’s FY2013-14 HCAT grantee programs include: Alexandria, Arlington County, Augusta County, Bedford County, Blacksburg, Chesterfield County, Danville, the Eastern Shore, Essex County, Franklin County, Floyd County, Gloucester County, Hampton Roads, Hanover County, Henrico County, Henry County, Jamestown, King and Queen County, King William County, Lynchburg, Martinsville, Mathews County, Middlesex County, New River Valley, Northern Neck, Page County, Portsmouth, Richmond, Roanoke, Staunton, Suffolk, Waynesboro and Yorktown.
Additionally, VFHY will hold its third Weight of the State childhood obesity conference in April 2013. The conference features expert speakers from Virginia and across the nation. The conference’s goals include strengthening and expanding local, regional and state capacity to promote access to healthy foods and nutrition, opportunities for physical activity and to reduce obesity.
The Weight of the State conference will feature six tracks focusing on: integrating physical activity into daily living; making healthy foods the easy choice; healthy living messaging; engaging employers and health care professionals; supporting healthy school environments; and community collaboration for healthy kids. VFHY utilized a Call for Abstracts process to select presenters from across Virginia. Other national, state and local presenters were invited to provide information on emerging trends in obesity prevention. About 20 plenary and breakout sessions will provide participants with information about emerging practices in childhood obesity prevention and replicable resources for participants to take back to their communities.
In fall 2011 and spring 2012, VFHY conducted its second survey of childhood obesity prevalence in Virginia among children ages 10 to 16. VFHY staff members worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU) Survey and Evaluation Research Laboratory (SERL) and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) in preparation for implementation of three statewide youth surveys, including the 2011 Virginia Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey (VNPAS) and the 2011 Virginia Youth Survey (VYS). Packages with a letter of support from the Secretaries of Education and Health and Human Resources, a parent letter and opt-out form, sample surveys and response form were distributed to school superintendents in August and September 2011. The surveys were administered in randomly selected schools throughout the state that agreed to participate.
The Virginia Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey (VNPAS) revealed that one in every 2.5 students fell into the overweight (17.9%) or obese categories (13%). The highest childhood obesity rate in the Commonwealth is found in Southeast Virginia (16.8%), followed by Southwest Virginia (13%). Obesity rates are lowest in Central Virginia (9%) and Northern Virginia (11%).
VFHY also offered Virginia Healthy Youth Day mini-grants to communities all across Virginia to hold events in January 2013 to promote increased physical activity and better nutrition for children. Established by a Virginia General Assembly resolution, Virginia Healthy Youth Day is held every January by the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (VFHY) and promotes healthy lifestyles for Virginia’s children, including eating right, exercising and not using tobacco products. The fourth annual Virginia Healthy Youth Day, held on Jan. 17, 2013, was a great success: More than 5,600 children participated in more than 20 locations across Virginia from Northern Virginia to far Southwest Virginia. First Lady of Virginia Maureen McDonnell was the keynote speaker at the flagship event held at the Richmond Marriott, which featured YMCA of Greater Richmond fitness specialists leading more than 450 Chesterfield County and Richmond schoolchildren in exercises. Mascots from Richmond-area universities and sports teams, including Virginia Commonwealth University and the Richmond Flying Squirrels were also in attendance.
Other major VFHY childhood obesity prevention initiatives include a childhood-obesity prevention campaign called ActOut being implemented by teen volunteers in VFHY’s Y Street program, which is overseen by VFHY’s Marketing department. Believed to be the largest group of its type in the nation, Y Street is a national award-winning volunteer movement for high school students funded by VFHY. In 2011, Y Street received the national Youth Advocates of the Year group award from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
The ActOut campaign is about getting Virginia youth excited about being physically active. To do this, a supportive environment is necessary – which is why it is important to increase public awareness on the benefits of physical education for students’ intellectual, physical, and emotional well-being.
Y Street members survey students, parents, teachers, school administrators and community members about their opinions regarding physical education and nutrition at schools. The completed surveys will be analyzed into reports to educate stakeholders and partners on what the community thinks about the issues. Each person who completes the survey will receive an ActOut info card with some facts about the importance of physical education. The respondent will be asked to share this information with family and friends to spread campaign awareness.
Since the launch of the campaign in fall 2011, Y Street members have collected more than 15,000 valid surveys from 210 communities across Virginia.