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Cambridge Receives a #1 Ranking in Preventing Childhood Obesity from Letís Move! Cities, Towns and Counties

August 8, 2016

Cambridge earned a top ranking in preventing childhood obesity from the National League of Cities’ Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties initiative, which is part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s comprehensive campaign to ensure that kids can grow up healthy.
Cambridge is one of three Massachusetts communities and 74 communities nationwide to earn a “gold medal” in each of the five goal areas of Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties. The goal areas focus on increasing access to healthy food and physical activity for children in child care, schools, and other settings. To see how Cambridge ranks nationally, visit the National League of Cities website.
“Reducing childhood obesity has been a longstanding public health priority in Cambridge, but First Lady Michelle Obama brought a national sense of urgency to the issue,” said Cambridge City Manager Richard C. Rossi. “She inspired us to pursue environmental and policy strategies that extended beyond our public schools and parks.” 

Cambridge is considered a national leader in healthy weight promotion. Starting in the late 1990s, a diverse team of public health professionals, civic leaders, city staff, academics, parent activists, and the Cambridge Public Schools came together to develop innovative approaches to healthy eating and physical activity. 
Over the following decade, their collaborative efforts resulted in school cafeterias serving healthier and locally grown foods, parents of public school students receiving annual health and fitness progress reports on their children, the establishment of school gardens in all elementary schools, and the adoption of model school nutrition policies.
Since joining the national Let’s Move! campaign in 2011, the city has focused on creating a healthy, sustainable, and equitable food and fitness environment in Cambridge. Recent accomplishments include establishing the Cambridge Food and Fitness Policy Council in 2012; expanding healthy food options in the public schools, including introducing salad bars and cuisine from other cultures; awarding annual nutrition and physical activity “mini-grants” to Cambridge organizations; increasing the purchasing power of low-income residents at farmers markets through a SNAP (formerly food stamps) benefits matching program; and incorporating physical activity into the city’s summer lunch program in local parks.
“Our community has rallied around childhood obesity, and we are reversing the trend,” said Claude Jacob, the city’s Chief Public Health Officer and director of the Cambridge Public Health Department. “Healthy eating and active living is a major component of the city’s community health improvement plan, and we are committed to reducing childhood obesity in the years ahead.”  
In 2015, 31% of Cambridge public school students (grades K-8) were overweight or obese, down from 39% in 2004, according to data collected by the school department. 
Jacob added that obesity disproportionately impacts black and Latino children both locally and nationally.  Among Cambridge school children (grades K-8), over 40% of black and Latino students are overweight or obese compared to 27% of Asian children and 21% of white children, according to 2015 data. 
Let’s Move Cambridge is based at the Cambridge Public Health Department and is a collaborative effort of city departments and the Healthy Children Task Force. For more information about Let’s Move Cambridge, contact Josefine Wendel at jwendel@challiance.org or 617-665-3765.

Suzy Feinberg, MPH
Public Information Officer

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