Clinton announces $8 million healthy schools effort

Monday, February 13th 2006, 2:37 pm
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Former President Clinton and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation announced an $8 million initiative Monday to fight childhood obesity by promoting healthier food and more exercise in schools.

Speaking at a Harlem public school, Clinton said 285 schools in 13 states had been chosen for the pilot phase of the program, beginning next fall, and additional schools will be able to apply for the program.

The schools will get help in improving the nutritional value of the food served in cafeterias and vending machines, increasing physical activity, providing health lessons and promoting staff wellness.

``What we want to do is to create a national recognition program shining a spotlight on schools that have done a good job, with concrete, innovative steps to create healthier learning environments for children and healthier work environments for staff,'' Clinton said.

The effort is part of a campaign undertaken last year by Clinton's foundation and the American Heart Association. Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is co-chairman of the initiative, dubbed the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

The two politicians were inspired to get involved by their own health problems: Clinton had heart bypass surgery in 2004; the once obese Huckabee lost 110 pounds after he was diagnosed with Type II diabetes a few years ago.

The campaign is aimed at lowering obesity rates that have tripled over the past 40 years for kids and adolescents from ages 6 through 19, raising their risk of risks of type 2 diabetes and a range of other diseases.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a Princeton, N.J.-based philanthropic organization that focuses on health issues, has committed $8 million over four years to the healthy schools effort.

``This is one of those moments when we have a chance to shape the history of a future generation,'' said the foundation's president, Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey. ``The question we have to ask ourselves is, could these children be the first generation of Americans who live sicker and die younger than the previous ones?''