RD21 - Obesity Prevention Funding for Community-Based Organizations in the Commonwealth

Executive Summary:
During the 2009 General Assembly session, the General Assembly directed the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (VFHY) Board of Trustees to devote at least $1 million per year from VFHY’s budget toward childhood obesity prevention efforts.

The majority of this funding has been dedicated to VFHY’s Healthy Communities Action Teams (HCAT) program.

In 2012, VFHY awarded its second round of two-year HCAT childhood obesity prevention grants. VFHY awarded more than $1.2 million in HCAT grants over FY 13 and FY 14 to establish and/or support 18 community coalitions across Virginia to fight childhood obesity on the local level. Funding and training provided by VFHY through the HCAT grants allow these community organizations to implement identified promising practices in childhood obesity prevention suggested by the national Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In FY 2013, HCAT grant recipients will receive $609,399. (A list of grant recipients can be found on page 10 of this report.)

VFHY’s HCAT grantees implement a variety of IOM/CDC-suggested strategies for childhood obesity prevention, such as working with or establishing farmers’ markets to increase community access to fresh produce; increasing physical activity in children enrolled in afterschool programs; creating and maintaining community gardens; increasing breastfeeding; and increasing awareness of good nutrition habits. HCAT grantees, which were selected by an independent grants application review panel, are required to comply with VFHY evaluation and reporting procedures.

Communities being served by VFHY’s FY2013-14 HCAT grantee programs include: Alexandria, Arlington County, Augusta County, Bedford County, Blacksburg, Chesterfield County, Danville, the Eastern Shore, Essex County, Franklin County, Floyd County, Gloucester County, Hampton Roads, Hanover County, Henrico County, Henry County, Jamestown, King and Queen County, King William County, Lynchburg, Martinsville, Mathews County, Middlesex County, New River Valley, Northern Neck, Page County, Portsmouth, Richmond, Roanoke, Staunton, Suffolk, Waynesboro and Yorktown.

VFHY expects to award its FY15-FY16 HCAT grants in December 2013. VFHY received 46 applications for its RFP for HCAT childhood obesity prevention grants, which closed in October 2013. A total of $1.2 million is available for awards over the two-year funding period of July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2016.

Additionally, VFHY held its third Weight of the State childhood obesity conference in April 2013. The conference featured expert speakers from Virginia and across the nation. The conference’s goals included strengthening and expanding local, regional and state capacity to promote access to healthy foods and nutrition, opportunities for physical activity and to reduce obesity.

The Weight of the State conference featured six tracks focusing on: integrating physical activity into daily living; making healthy foods the easy choice; healthy living messaging; engaging employers and health care professionals; supporting healthy school environments; and community collaboration for healthy kids. VFHY utilized a Call for Abstracts process to select presenters from across Virginia. Other national, state and local presenters were invited to provide information on emerging trends in obesity prevention. About 20 plenary and breakout sessions provided participants with information about emerging practices in childhood obesity prevention and replicable resources for participants to take back to their communities. The conference also provided continuing education credits to a variety of health professionals including physicians.

VFHY also offered Virginia Healthy Youth Day mini-grants to communities all across Virginia to hold events in January 2014 to promote increased physical activity and better nutrition for children. Established by a Virginia General Assembly resolution, Virginia Healthy Youth Day is held every January by the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (VFHY) and promotes healthy lifestyles for Virginia’s children, including eating right, exercising and not using tobacco products. The fifth annual Virginia Healthy Youth Day will be held on Jan. 15, 2014. Past Virginia Healthy Youth Day events have been a great success: In 2013, more than 5,600 children participated in more than 20 locations across Virginia from Northern Virginia to far Southwest Virginia. The 2014 Virginia Healthy Youth Day flagship event will be held at the University of Richmond’s Robins Center and will involve more than 1,600 children from Richmond-area public schools.

Other major VFHY childhood obesity prevention initiatives to promote healthy eating and active living for youth and families include: Rev Your Bev Day, ActOut, Screen-Free Week, Walk to School Day and National Childhood Obesity Awareness month.

For the first time in spring 2013 VFHY hosted Rev Your Bev, a statewide day of action in Virginia to raise awareness about the health effects of consuming sugar-sweetened beverages. Y Street, teachers and health advocates across the state joined together to host 175 Rev Your Bev events and collect surveys from more than 13,000 Virginians statewide to assess knowledge and attitudes about sugar-sweetened beverages.

The ActOut Campaign engages Virginia school districts and encourages schools to implement physical education each day. Last year, Y Street, VFHY’s award-winning teen volunteer group for high school students, collected more than 15,800 surveys of Virginia residents in 210 communities statewide. The survey results, released in April 2013, showed that 94 percent of Virginians support requiring at least 30 minutes of daily physical education in elementary and middle schools. In the next year, Y Street plans to share the survey findings with local school district leadership including school boards and principals.

Screen-Free Week encourages youth and families to get unplugged from televisions, computers and electronic devices and find fun ways to be physically active instead. Partners for Screen-Free Week included the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and local librarians.

Annually VFHY partners with the Virginia Department of Transportation for Walk to School Day to encourage safe walking and biking to school. In FY2014 more than 165 schools across Virginia participated in Walk to School Day.

VFHY also celebrates National Childhood Obesity Awareness month in September by highlighting the successes of local VFHY grantees working in their communities to promote healthy eating, physical activity and obesity prevention.

Finally, in fall 2012 and spring 2013 VFHY collaborated with the Virginia Department of Health to combine three surveys focused on youth: the Virginia Youth Survey (VYS), the Youth Tobacco Survey (YTS) and the Virginia Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey (VNPAS). The new statewide youth health survey will be administered in late 2013 and provide information on nutrition and physical activity health behaviors for Virginia middle and high school youth. Through this partnership, VFHY and VDH are reducing the overall cost of the surveys and the burden on schools. Additionally, for the first time, the data collection will provide regional data which will assist in determining areas of highest need.