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Leadership for Healthy Communities

Rising rates of obesity have created a significant public health challenge.  In 2009, 23 states saw increases in overall obesity rates and 30 states reported that at or above 30 percent or children and adolescents were overweight or obese.  Accompanying these rising rates of obesity are increases in chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, and pediatricians today are diagnosing more cases of these formerly adult conditions in children.  Obesity, coupled with these related chronic diseases, threaten to make this generation of children the first in 200 years to lead unhealthier lives and have a shorter lifespan than their parents.   

Cities, towns, and counties play an influential role in improving residents’ access to healthy foods and their ability to be physically active through a range of policies and program as well as with their land use and zoning authority. The International City/County Management Association (ICMA) is dedicated to supporting programs and policies that promote active living and access to healthy foods.

Through 2009, ICMA was involved in Leadership for Healthy Communities, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, formerly known as Active Living Leadership. The program supports state and local government leaders in efforts to reduce childhood obesity through public policies that promote active living, healthy eating, and access to healthy foods.  As a former partner in this initiative, ICMA supports government leaders in their efforts to create and implement policies, programs, and places that achieve these goals.

Through its work with Leadership for Healthy Communities, ICMA partnered with the National Association of Counties (NACo) and the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) to promote collaboration among local governments and schools in their efforts to combat childhood obesity.  Their Healthy Communities Network initiative started with a full day of facilitated dialogue among local leaders in Pascagoula, Mississipi in U.S. in 2007, and continued with six more dialogues in the southeast and southwest. 

To learn more about ICMA’s work on active living or healthy eating, visit the topic pages on the Knowledge Network.   ICMA members who are interested in ongoing peer exchange and technical assistance related to healthy communities can join the Healthy Communities Group on the Knowledge Network.

For more information contact Anna Read at aread@icma.org.