The Alliance for a Healthier Generation seeks to reduce childhood obesity by 2015 through empowering children to make healthy lifestyle choices. Realizing that in the United States 1 in 3 children between the ages of 2-19 are overweight or obese,1 they are employing a multi-directional approach by including homes, schools, doctor's offices, and communities in their programs.
The American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation joined together in 2005 to form the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. Since then they have also partnered with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to “help cultivate a healthier generation of children today, so that we will have a healthier America tomorrow.”2
The Alliance's broad scope of programs includes a Healthcare Initiative that seeks to fund physicians and dietitians for obesity prevention care, a Healthy Schools Program that supports policies that make “the healthy choice the easy choice,”3 an Industry Initiative that encourages voluntary agreements to provide healthy snacks and beverages in the schools, and the Kids' Movement that enrolls children, their families, and their communities to “take charge of their health, get educated and get activated.”4
As a matter of policy, the Alliance does not accept funding from any businesses or industries, such as the beverage, food, and health insurance industries, with which they are negotiating solutions.
The Healthcare Initiative's Healthier Generation Benefit extends obesity preventative measures to children through doctors and dieticians. They have also collaborated with the American Academy of Pediatrics and Eric Carle, the children's author of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, to create an educational resource on eating for health.5 The Industry Initiative has formed agreements with thirteen food manufacturers, technology companies, and group purchasing organizations to serve healthier and affordable meals in the schools.6
An extensive Healthy Schools Program recognizes that, other than time at home, kids spend most of their time at school – about 1,100 hours each year.7 They also have found that healthy children behave better in classes, have a higher attendance record, and achieve higher test scores. The Alliance has formed a Framework of Seven Wellness Categories for schools: Policy and Systems, School Meals, Competitive Foods and Beverages, Healthy Education, Employee Wellness, Physical Education, and Student Wellness. They believe that making changes to one or two of these areas will produce measurable health benefits in the school.
The Alliance makes a distinction between physical education, which is an active class, and physical activity, which is a lifestyle choice. They maintain that childhood obesity has increased as physical activity in schools has decreased and, therefore, they support student wellness choices, such as walking and biking to school and being more physically active during school, which includes regular recess time.
President Bill Clinton, the founder of the William J. Clinton Foundation that co-founded The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, highlights the importance of their mission in schools: “When schools give students the tools they need to lead a healthier lifestyle, they are helping them make an invaluable investment in their future.”8
- 1. “Childhood Obesity – An American Epidemic.” Alliance for a Healthier Generation. < http://www.healthiergeneration.org/about.aspx?id=3439 > 20 Jan. 2012.
- 2. “School: It's Where Our Kids Are.” Alliance for a Healthier Generation. < http://schools.healthiergeneration.org/wellness_categories/ > 29 May 2012.
- 3. “Policy and Systems.” Alliance for a Healthier Generation. < http://schools.healthiergeneration.org/wellness_categories/policy_and_systems/why_policy_and_systems/ > 29 May 2012.
- 4. “Our Programs.” Alliance for a Healthier Generation. < http://www.healthiergeneration.org/about.aspx?id=3437 > 20 Jan. 2012.
- 5. “At the Doctor.” Alliance for a Healthier Generation. < http://www.healthiergeneration.org/healthcareprofessionals.aspx > 29 May 2012.
- 6. “In Business.” Alliance for a Healthier Generation. < http://www.healthiergeneration.org/companies.aspx > 29 May 2012.
- 7. Op.cit., “School: It's Where Our Kids Are.”
- 8. “Healthy Schools Program Overview.” Alliance for a Healthier Generation. < http://schools.healthiergeneration.org/how_it_works/program_overview/ > 20 Jan. 2012.