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A newly launched foundation is on a mission to reduce obesity by 2015, especially among children, by working with a coalition of companies to help people achieve a healthy weight through energy balance. Although founding members include companies such as General Mills, the foundation will welcome others much smaller from both the outdoor and fitness markets.
The goal of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (HWCF), which officially debuted on Oct. 5, is to help the public learn to balance calories in with calories out — members will help with promotion and tools to teach about healthy diet balanced with physical activity. To do this, it is focusing on three areas where people spend most of their time: the marketplace, the workplace and schools, with a public campaign rolling out in January 2010.
Its founding members, mainly from the food and beverage segment, provided the $20 million to launch the national organization.
Lisa Gable, executive director for HWCF (www.healthyweightcommit.org), told SNEWS® that many of its 40 members, including General Mills, Campbell Soup Company and The Coca-Cola Company, have the “calories in” part of the energy balance equation covered, but the foundation is still looking for more members to handle the “calories out.”
“There’s room for anybody who wants to come to our party. We very much want (the outdoor and fitness industries),” she said, adding that HWCF wants to work with manufacturers and retailers, and even industry associations and non-profits that can help with recruiting.
“For us, it’s a matter of identifying partners and programs where we can introduce the concept of energy balance: nutrition plus physical activity. That is the focus we have and we think it’s broad enough that many people can participate at a number of different levels. It is a combination of nutrition and physical activity, that’s what it’s all about.”
Non-profit partners already onboard are the American Council on Fitness & Nutrition Foundation, PE4Life, the American Dietetic Association Foundation and the National Wildlife Federation.
Assessment and definition
Each of the foundation’s three focus areas — marketplace, workplace and schools — will be evaluated by an independent assessor. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (www.rwjf.org), a non-profit with a simple goal of helping Americans lead healthier lives, will fund an independent evaluation of HWCF’s activities in the marketplace. Scientists will define the metrics and use them to track progress and assess the overall impact of the marketplace effort for a series of reports that will be released publicly.
HWCF’s workplace efforts will be assessed by the National Business Group on Health (www.businessgrouphealth.org) and shared with other employers so they may be replicated. The standardized metrics will allow the foundation to measure its impact on fostering and maintaining a healthy culture, offering the best range and type of resources and tools feasible in a particular workplace, and gaining significant levels of employee participation and satisfaction.
For the school focus, the HWCF is expanding the Healthy Schools Partnership, a school-based program run by the American Dietetic Association Foundation that integrates nutrition and physical education to help children develop lifelong healthy habits. It will be evaluated by the University of California, Berkeley Center for Weight and Health over a three-year period to measure student’s improved food choice behavior and increased physical activity, among other aspects.
“We think the key differentiator for us and the unique opportunity we have in the marketplace is that we have developed relationships with these outside evaluators, who will actually be measuring the actions we take in each of those areas and their impact on obesity,” Gable said. “People have been talking about this for a long time but nobody has sat down and measured the direct impact.”
Membership dues are based on the size of the company and help fund the metric parameters for each category and a public education campaign on obesity that’s rolling out in January. Members can participate in any of the focus areas they choose and tailor them to suit their particular needs.
To find out more or see how you can become a part, call or email Becky Johnson at 202-639-5900 and firstname.lastname@example.org.