Advocacy opportunities

There are many opportunities for you to become an advocate for healthy active living at the community, state, or federal level. Preventing ill-health in communities by helping them live healthy now saves money and lives in the long run. The decisions made in our neighborhoods and municipalities can affect our children's development and family health. As a parent or a health professional you can have a great deal of influence in your own community today. 

Some promising strategies for creating health active communities identified in 2008 by the Prevention Institute are:

  • Safe neighborhoods, communities, and buildings that support physical activity as part of every day life.
  • Ensuring fresh, local, and healthy food is available and affordable within the community.
  • Healthy foods and beverages are available and promoted in grocery/food stores, restaurants, and entertainment venues.
  • Schools offer and promote only healthy foods and beverages to students.
  • Schools promote healthy physical activities and incorporate them throughout the day, including before and after school.
  • Childcare organizations including pre-school, afterschool, and early childhood settings offer and promote healthy foods and beverages and provide sufficient opportunity for, and promote, physical activity

Excerpted from 2008 Report from the Prevention Institute "Promising Strategies for Creating Healthy Eating and Active Living Environments" ( PDF Document )


Community Advocacy

Some strategies for improving obesity at the community level include creating healthier food and physical activity environments (i.e. bike paths, access to fresh fruit and veggies, etc), improving school environments (opportunity for more physical activity, nutritious food choices, etc) and working towards health equity for all children. As a pediatrician or parent you can be an effective advocate in your community for improving your environment.  For example you could join existing coalitions or start new ones, participate in parent teacher organizations, and/or write letters to your local and state elected officials.

As part of the Mobilizing Healthcare Professionals as Community Leaders in the Fight Against Childhood Obesity program, Mobilizing Healthcare Professionals as Community Leaders in the Fight Against Childhood Obesity is a project of the National Initiative for Children's Healthcare Quality (NICHQ), in cooperation with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the California Medical Association Foundation (CMA-Foundation), and the Robert Wood Johnson Center to Prevent Childhood Obesity (CPCO), to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic trend across the nation by training, supporting and providing technical assistance to healthcare professionals in becoming advocates for change within their communities.

Supporting Policies

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State Advocacy

There are many opportunities to become advocates at the state to help create and ensure food and physical activity environments that support active healthy living.  Some tools to help you in your effort are identified below. For additional resources visit Helpful Links

AAP Division of State Government Affairs is tasked with providing assistance to AAP chapters as they advocate for children. The Division offers resources for advocates on vital children's health issues like Medicaid, injury and violence prevention, immunizations, and many others. Advocacy materials produced by the Division cover the legislative, research, and strategic dimensions of an issue.

  • State Legislation Report ( PDF Document): The 2007 State Legislation Report outlines activity on 11 issues relating to children's health and safety. The narrative for each issue explains the state activity that occurred during the 2007 state legislative sessions. State-by-state legislation charts include information from 2007 as well as previous years and maps provide a national perspective on state action.  Obesity information can be found on page 43.
  • Obesity Issue Brief ( PDF Document) [MOC]: Issue Briefs provide AAP chapters with an introduction to state government issues and additional background information that can be used when communicating with legislators or other public officials.

National Initiative for Healthcare Quality (NICHQ) State Obesity Fact Sheets with the most recent national and state-based data regarding childhood overweight and obesity prevalence through data collected in 2007 by the National Survey of Children's Health and analysis from NICHQ's project partners,the Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health ( and the Child Policy Resource Center, as an Interactive map. The State Fact Sheets offer information specific to your state on a variety of policy issues impacting (and being impacted by) childhood obesity such as: overall prevalence rates compared with other states, disparities and variances by race, insurance, income level, what your state is doing at the legislative level to combat childhood obesity, and what schools in your state are doing to combat childhood obesity.

The Childhood Obesity Action Network (COAN) has just published a new report, Childhood Obesity: The Role of Health Policy PDF Document, that provides recommendations on actions that various stakeholders in health care (including providers, plans and employers) can take to mount an effective health care response to the epidemic of childhood obesity.  This report serves to lay a foundation for that response and guide the activities of the Childhood Obesity Action Network (COAN).

State Legislation Searchable Database The Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's state legislation searchable database. The database allows users to search for state bills from 2001 to present related to nutrition and/or physical activity. Users are asked to pick either nutrition or physical activity on the first page or they may select the either option for the whole database. Users can use search fields, enter keywords, or search the entire database. There are no required search fields, so if the user simply hits "search" they will be able to access all bills in that subject area. This database is available to the general public and no registration or password is required. This database was created after requests from state partners and is the first public access database of its kind.

Shaping a Healthier Generation: Healthy Kids, Healthy America, State Profiles in ProgressPDF Document, March 2010. To support gubernatorial action a report was developed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the NGA Center for Best Practices. RWJF and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), awarded grants up to $110,000 to 15 states to help them develop policies to prevent childhood obesity. Funding received by states supported a number of activities; however, state strategies generally fell into three categories:
1) Child care settings. Two states—Kentucky and Tennessee—
focused on child care efforts.

2) Policy planning and priorization. Four states—Michigan,
Minnesota, Mississippi, and New Mexico—focused on prioritizing
policy across the public and private sectors.

3) School-based efforts. Nine states—Indiana, Louisiana, New
York, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia,
and Wisconsin—focused on school-based efforts

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Federal Advocacy

AAP Department of Federal Affairs
The Department of Federal Affairs has been the Academy's link to federal legislative activities in Washington, DC, for more than 30 years. Pediatricians with the drive to make a difference in child and adolescent health through Congress and/or federal agencies are given the information and tools necessary to become effective child advocates, from offering testimony to meeting with a representative or senator.

Resources are available at the Member Center (for AAP Members Only)

Current opportunities for advocacy at the national level in 2009 are the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, the Transportation Equity Act and No Child Left Behind.

Supporting Advocacy

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