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What We Do - Childhood Obesity

Adult and Childhood Obesity Prevention


Over the course of three decades, obesity rates in the United States approached—and reached—epidemic proportions. Rates rose rapidly among both children and adults, and medical costs associated with obesity and related diseases skyrocketed.

That's now changing. Obesity rates among adults and children are leveling off. In many places across the country, we're seeing a team approach not only to reversing the obesity epidemic, but to building a Culture of Health where all of us—no matter who we are or where we live—have the opportunity to be healthy. The efforts of parents, policymakers, community leaders, health officials, educators, business owners, and industry executives are bringing exciting results, and a growing number of states and cities have reported declines in their obesity rates. Slowly but surely, we're beginning to turn the corner.

Our Involvement

Highmark Foundation and its partners have been at this work for a long time, and we're still not done. Community-based efforts to change the environment, along with a family approach to prevention, are proving to be effective in encouraging more physical activity and nutrition among school-age children, according to findings from Kaiser Permanente.

The Foundation's work in the community is prevention-focused and evidence-based. To be healthy, people need access to healthy and nutritious food, walking paths, safe parks, playgrounds, improved school meal nutrition, opportunities for physical activity, and sufficient care. Good health for the entire community also requires a focus on social and economic well­being.

Our Goals

As it pertains to adult and childhood obesity, the Highmark Foundation's primary goal is to promote and encourage the adoption of best practices in obesity prevention. Communities where populations are most at risk, and where resources can be used most effectively to fill significant gaps, are the Foundation's primary focus.

Our priorities in supporting organizations include:

  • Providing services within the Highmark Foundation footprint
  • Providing services to disadvantaged and/or underserved populations in both urban and rural areas
  • Addressing critical public health needs in our culturally diverse communities.

The Foundation's action plan includes:

  • Obesity and Overweight Prevention and Reduction
    Focus on initiatives and partnerships that promote healthy eating and active living to combat obesity rates through treatment, intervention, environmental strategies, and social changes.
  • Chronic Disease Prevention, Education, and Management
    Obesity contributes substantially to chronic disease. We look to support the implementation of obesity models that include training for healthcare professionals, support that expands clinical care to community systems, and initiatives that address the multiple elements necessary for integration within clinical care and with social systems. Focus is on improving education, prevention, early detection, and treatment; emphasis is on cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and cholesterol.
  • Comprehending the extent of the obesity problem.
    Obesity is a complex and multisystem disease; it requires not only clinical prevention and treatment strategies, but public health interventions, too. There remains a great deal we do not know. Who is working on what? What has been the impact of various efforts, and what surveillance systems are being utilized that contain data relevant to adult and childhood obesity research? Gathering this information will aid the Foundation and others to better understand these gaps and develop strategies to reduce and, in time, close them.
  • Identifying projects with the potential to achieve demonstrable outcomes.
    We want to help all children and families eat well and move more—especially those in communities at highest risk for obesity. We seek to explore demonstrable efforts, innovative approaches, and partnerships that are needed to effectively address the problem.
  • Disseminating information and data on best practices discovered through initiatives, existing and new.
    Learning occurs through extending knowledge about what is effective and its associated challenges. Publishing, presenting, and disseminating information broadens the Foundation's scope and guides further replication and application of our work beyond our region to help others avoid mistakes. It also makes the outcomes more publicly available. Highmark Foundation is poised to promote the visibility and accessibility of our experiences. Examples of past and current initiatives include Super + School Challenge grants, Innerlink, Creating a Healthy School Environment Grants and Awards Program, and work with community-based organizations.

Note: Documents from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Kaiser Permanente were used to prepare this section.


For resources and further statistics on obesity, visit our Resources page.