PRINCETON, NJ-- The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) will commit at least $500 million during the next five years to tackle one of the most urgent public health threats facing our nation: childhood obesity. This is the largest commitment by any foundation to this issue. The foundation’s goal is to reverse the epidemic of childhood obesity in the United States by 2015.

The health philanthropy will expand research, school and community efforts with focus on reaching kids and families in underserved communities.

During the past four decades, obesity rates have soared among all age groups, more than quadrupling among children ages 6 to 11. Today, more than 33 percent of children and adolescents—approximately 25 million kids—are overweight or obese.

“This is an all-American crisis,” says Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of RWJF. “It affects all Americans, and it will require all of America working together to turn it around. Our commitment is a call to action for families, schools, government, industry, health care and philanthropy. To reverse the obesity epidemic and create a culture of health, we must provide families with better access to healthy choices.”

The foundation will focus on improving access to affordable healthy foods and opportunities for safe physical activity in schools and communities. It will place special emphasis on reaching children who are at greatest risk for obesity and related health problems: African-American, Latino, Native American, Asian American and Pacific Islander children living in low-income communities.

“Individual choice and behavior are important, but the world we live in plays a big role, too. We have to make it easier for kids to eat well and move more,” says Lavizzo-Mourey. “That means more parks and safe places for kids to play, more grocery stores that stock affordable fresh produce, and improved school policies on nutrition and physical education. With this new commitment, we hope to foster more of these changes that will make it easier for families to raise healthy kids.”

For the past several years, RWJF has supported programs to address childhood obesity that offer potential for wide-scale change in communities and schools. These include efforts to bring supermarkets back to underserved communities and programs to improve nutrition, physical activity and staff wellness in schools nationwide. The group also invests in research to determine which changes to school and community environments are most effective in increasing physical activity and improving nutrition for kids. The $500 million commitment will build on RWJF’s current work and foster the movement to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic.

With this investment, RWJF will: expand school-based programs; help states and communities coordinate their efforts, advocate for change, and evaluate impact; and encourage food and beverage companies to offer healthier products and change their marketing practices.

For more information about the foundation’s commitment to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic, visit http://www.rwjf.org