Leadership for Healthy Communities


Fruit & Vegetables photoToday, more than 23.5 million children and adolescents in the United States—nearly one in three young people—are either obese or overweight, putting them on a trajectory of higher risk for serious, even life-threatening health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. Recent research shows that states' comprehensive policy approaches to preventing obesity are beginning to bring about declines in obesity rates among children. These policy options make it easier for kids and families to eat healthier foods and be physically active.

NCSL participates in Leadership for Healthy Communities, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that assists state and local leaders in their efforts to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic. NCSL's objective under the project is to provide state legislators with information—including evidence-based research and examples of successful approaches adopted in other states—that can support their policy priorities. NCSL will tailor information and technical assistance to legislators to support the actions they choose to take as policymakers. Currently, the project focuses on three priority issues:

  • Nutritional quality of all school foods and beverages.
  • Availability of high-quality, affordable foods in communities.
  • Physical activity requirements and opportunities in school and in out-of-school programs.

News Items

  • NCSL's 2013 Childhood Obesity Legislation Policy Options page is now live.
  • NCSL's Child Obesity Trends 50-state maps page with state-by-state childhood obesity rates has been updated.
  • The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute have released their fifth annual, 50-state, county-by-county report on the health of residents in nearly every U.S. county.  Click on the interactive map to see how counties in your state compare on 29 factors that influence health and well being.
  • CDC reported in February 2014 that although overall U.S. adult and youth obesity rates remain unchanged, rates for 2-5 year old children have significantly improved. NCSL's Childhood Overweight and Obesity Trends page reports state-by-state obesity rates for 10-17 year olds and more information about CDC's announcement.
  • A "Vital Signs 2013 Preschool Obesity Trends Report with 50-state map from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concludes that obesity rates among low income preschoolers are improving but there is more work to be done.

NCSL Resources on State Policy Options to Promote Healthy Communities and Reduce Childhood Obesity

The National Conference of State Legislatures has observed increasing and sustained interest among state legislatures in policies designed to promote healthy communities and reduce or prevent childhood obesity. NCSL has produced many resource materials summarizing and discussing state policy trends on these topics and providing more detailed information.

NCSL Legislative Action Bulletins

NCSL continues to follow state legislation in 2013-2014 and will post legislative updates periodically. For enacted 2013 state legislation please see the NCSL web page on Childhood Obesity-2013 Update of Legislative Policy Options. Current state legislation of special interest on topics related to healthy communities, preventing and reducing childhood obesity is summarized in Legislative Action Bulletins posted throughout the year, available at the links below:

NCSL Policy Trends Reports

NCSL Web Pages

Legislative Information Pages

Resources on Specific Topics

School Nutrition
Food Access
School Physical Activity
General Healthy Communities

Outside Resources and News Items

Additional resources for state and local policymakers produced by other organizations: