Reversing Childhood Obesity

With $6.9 million in funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a new program aims at improving the health of school-age children

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Tufts’ Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy have publicly launched an ambitious partnership. ChildObesity180, funded with $6.9 million from the foundation, aims to reverse the nation’s childhood obesity epidemic in a generation’s time.

“This epidemic is too important to wait another moment,” says Christina Economos, N96, the school’s New Balance Chair in Childhood Nutrition, who is the vice chair and director of ChildObesity180.

“Childhood obesity is the preeminent public health issue of our time. Today, one-third of children in America are overweight or obese and on track to experience catastrophic health conditions, swamp health-care budgets and create unprecedented challenges across society,” she says. The project has brought together 20 leaders from government, academia, industry and nonprofit organizations to develop a national plan to reverse that trend.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has provided more than $1 million to fund a two-year planning phase. With the authorization of this new support, the project launches its public phase, tackling such issues as physical activity in and out of school and access to healthy breakfasts. Peter Dolan, A78, A08P, who is vice chair of Tufts’ Board of Trustees, chairs the project, which resides within the John Hancock Research Center on Physical Activity, Nutrition and Obesity Prevention at the Friedman School. Miriam Nelson, a Friedman professor and director of the John Hancock Research Center, serves with Economos as codirector.

Tufts President Anthony P. Monaco announced the support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation at an event celebrating the 10th anniversary of the John Hancock Research Center last November. He thanked foundation officials for their “outstanding support for this groundbreaking effort and for all the foundation does to improve people’s health.” He added: “We are proud to be partnering with you to combat and reverse the childhood obesity epidemic.”

Economos also hails the foundation’s role. “The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s national leadership around this issue has been extraordinary,” she says. “Their support of ChildObesity180 will allow us to build the capacity necessary to execute widely impactful initiatives to improve the health and well-being of the nation’s children.”

For more information about the initiative, visit

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