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Encouraging Support to Combat Childhood Obesity

February 14, 2013

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We continue to see our children grow to unhealthy weights and not get enough exercise, yet we've done too little to prevent it. Now, a new survey sparks hope that growing public support can help us get on the path to reversing this dangerous trend.

Hello, I'm Tracey Rattray, Director of the Community Wellness and Prevention Program for Contra Costa Health Services. The CW&PP program aims to improve the health of our community. My colleagues and I are encouraged by results of a survey conducted by the Field Poll and The California Endowment that shows a majority of California voters correctly feel childhood obesity is a serious problem that must be addressed.

Because of its role in The California Endowment's Building Healthy Communities initiative, the City of Richmond was one of the areas surveyed. Despite heavy lobbying from the beverage industry last year, there is a strong desire in Richmond for local policies that increase the availability of healthy foods as well as opportunities to be more physically active.

There's good reason public support is growing. Obesity is endangering our children's health and future and we know that sugary drinks are playing a significant role. People are noticing the ill effects of childhood obesity, like increased risk for diabetes and other chronic diseases.

Our communities are saturated with outlets for sugar-sweetened beverages. In Richmond and San Pablo between 75-80% of residents live within walking distance of a sugar sweetened beverage outlet. It's no surprise that over the past few decades, we've seen consumption of sugary drinks and junk food skyrocket while opportunities for safe and accessible exercise have dwindled. In studies conducted by Contra Costa Health Services in 2011, we found that the average teen in Richmond and San Pablo consumes 150,000 calories per year from sugar-sweetened beverages. We could and should be doing better for our children.

The California Endowment's survey found that 66% of voters living in Richmond said not enough attention is being paid to childhood obesity in their community. Additionally, 91% supported increasing the availability of healthful foods like fruits and vegetables and 92% felt it was important to ensure clean, fresh drinking water is available to students at school. Even after the beverage industry spent $3 million in Richmond on a campaign to defeat a sugar sweetened beverage tax, 68% of California voters now say they would support a tax on SSB if the money is earmarked for to improving school nutrition programs and expanding physical activity programs.

There are ways to make a difference and it begins in our communities. We need to encourage families to choose healthy food and drinks and we need to create an environent where the healthy choice is the easy choice. We can do this by supporting policies that improve sports facilities and make it safe to walk and bike to school and increase community access to healthy foods.

Find out how else you can make a difference in childhood obesity at

Thanks for listening.

About the Author

Tracey Rattray
Director, Community Wellness and Prevention Program
Contra Costa Health Services