State Actions to Promote Healthy Communities and Prevent Childhood Obesity

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Cover of State Actions to Promote Healthy Communities and Prevent Childhood ObesityIntroduction

Through enactment of legislation during the 2007-2010 sessions, the National Conference of State Legislatures(NCSL) saw increasing and sustained interest among state legislatures in policies designed to promote healthy communities and reduce or prevent childhood obesity. These trends were described in three earlier NCSL reports: Promoting Healthy Communities and Reducing Childhood Obesity: Legislative Options; Promoting Healthy Communities and Preventing Childhood Obesity: Trends in Recent Legislation; and Reversing the Trend in Childhood Obesity: Policies to Promote Healthy Kids and Communities. This report continues the policy tracking evidenced in the previous reports by summarizing and analyzing trends in state legislation enacted during the 2011 sessions.

Report Organization

The report summarizes enacted state legislation in two broad policy categories—healthy eating and physical activity, and healthy community design and access to healthy food. These are further divided into 16 topic areas. The first broad category focuses on nutrition and physical activity/physical education issues, primarily in schools. It is divided into 10 topics:

  • School Nutrition
  • Nutrition Education
  • School Wellness
  • Physical Activity or Physical Education in School
  • Body Mass Index Measurement or Fitness Assessment for Students
  • Diabetes Screening at School
  • Preschool Obesity Prevention
  • Insurance Coverage for Obesity Prevention
  • Taxes, Tax Credits, Tax Exemptions and Other Fiscal Incentives
  • Task Forces, Commissions, Studies and Other Special Programs

The second broad category—healthy community design and access to healthy food—deals with changes in the built environment, including land use, transportation and agricultural topics, that can create more walkable/bikeable communities and increase access to healthy food through changes in infrastructure and procurement policies. It is comprised of six issue areas:

  • Bicycling and Walking/Complete Streets
  • Transit-Oriented Development
  • Joint-Use Agreements
  • Farm-to-School
  • Food Deserts/Access to Healthy Food
  • Local Food/Direct Marketing

Although some bills may fall into more than one category—for example, school nutrition and nutrition education,or tax credits and food deserts/access to healthy food—the enacted legislation is summarized only in one category (the category in which most of the provisions are covered). Proposed legislation that has not been enacted also may be referenced in the narrative description of each category to illustrate trends in legislation that may serve as precursors to laws enacted in subsequent sessions. In these cases, the bills are not summarized, but the states are identified in the narrative. Laws were not enacted in all issue areas during 2011; the topics are covered nonetheless because of legislation passed in that issue area in previous years (thus providing a level of comparison), and the fact that bills were considered that may carry over to the 2012 sessions.