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Booker, Nelson, Carper, Coons Reintroduce Bill to Combat Childhood Obesity

April 23, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Tom Carper (D-DE), and Chris Coons (D-DE) reintroduced a bill to combat childhood obesity. The Reducing Obesity in Youth Act encourages local partnerships that directly target populations with the highest childhood obesity rates.

Recent data demonstrates the depth of the challenge of childhood obesity and the importance of addressing obesity at an early age: according to a recent 2014 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, a third of children who were overweight in kindergarten were obese by eighth grade and remained obese. Furthermore, between 2015 and 2016, obesity for kids between the ages of two and five years old increased from nine to fourteen percent, the highest increase since 1999.

“We know that the choices our children make in their earliest years when it comes to healthy eating and exercise will impact them throughout their lives,” Senator Booker said. “This bill will empower communities to work together to prevent childhood obesity and help our children build lifelong healthy habits.”

“Research consistently shows that childhood is a critical time for children to build lifelong habits around healthy eating and exercise,” Senator Nelson said. “This bill will help educate our kids about healthy lifestyle choices.”

“I often say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and I can think of few ways to better keep our kids healthy than teaching them good habits at a young age,” said Senator Carper. “This legislation helps empower our kids by giving them the tools necessary to be their own advocates – learning the importance of staying active and developing good eating habits. When nearly one-third of our kids are already overweight or obese by the time they’re teenagers, all of us - parents, educators, businesses and health officials – need to work together to reverse this dangerous trend and give our kids a healthier future.”

“I’m proud to once again support the Reducing Obesity in Youth Act, a bill that will give local entities the tools they need to tackle childhood obesity,” said Senator Coons. “Early intervention is key to educate our nation’s children and promote healthy lifestyles into adulthood. I look forward to working with my colleagues to enact this bill into law.”

“Many of our life-long habits are established in childhood,” Roy Proujansky, Executive Vice President and Chief Executive of Nemours Delaware Valley Operations, said. “Nemours Children’s Health System has shown that by incorporating obesity prevention initiatives into early care and education settings, we can instill in children a regular practice of healthy eating and physical activity. We applaud Senator Booker for introducing legislation that builds upon Nemours’ pioneering work and would benefit children and families across the country.”

Specifically, the Reducing Obesity in Youth Act (ROYA) would do the following:

  • Allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to award five-year competitive grants to local entities to assist in the development of healthier early care and education environments.

  • Integrate the promotion of healthy eating (including early feeding best practices), physical activity, and screen time reduction into existing early care and education State programs by requiring local grantees to use funding to provide training, technical assistance, and resources to implementing partners.

  • Require the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to use a portion of the funding to enter into contracts with institutions of higher education, nonprofit organizations, or other entities with relevant monitoring and surveillance expertise to track State progress in obesity prevention policies.

ROYA is endorsed by the following organizations: Nemours Children’s Health System, The American Heart Association, Child Care Aware®, First Focus Campaign for Children, Prevention Institute, Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness at George Washington University, Alabama Partnership for Children, and the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children.