Our History1

Our team has spend over 20 years mobilizing communities to improve child health.

From California to Maine, Florida to Washington, Alaska to Hawaii, our work has collectively reached over 12 million children in all 50 states.

While our work through ChildObesity180 engages national partners for wide dissemination, we also know the incredible power of working locally, harnessing the assets and strengths of a community to drive change. We have worked intensively in over 30 communities, helping build multisector partnerships that empower people and organizations to spark social change and create healthy environments where all children can be their healthiest selves.

While our approach has evolved, our mission remains the same: for all children to live in environments where they can thrive.

Shape Up Somerville

2002 – 2005

Shape up Somerville was a multi-faceted intervention to prevent obesity in culturally diverse, high-risk, early-elementary school children (grades 1-3) in Somerville, MA. Shape up Somerville was the first study to empirically evaluate the merits of a whole of community approach to reduce childhood obesity, demonstrating a reduction in BMI among participants.


What Worked

      • School food improvements: Enhancements in the quality and quantity of healthy foods available for students in the Somerville schools
      • Nutrition education: Creation and implementation of an innovative classroom-based health curriculum and after-school cooking and nutrition education program
      • Family and community engagement: Extensive engagement with families and community members
      • Built environment: Implementation of a community walking program with the creation of Safe Routes to School, a walking “school bus,” and traffic calming campaign
      • Leadership buy-in: Education of policy makers about the link between city planning and public health issues such as obesity
      • Community-wide priority setting: Creation of a comprehensive community Wellness Policy.
      • Multisector engagement: The Shape Up Somerville Task Force was a multisector group of leaders and community members who helped implement and evaluate the SUS intervention, informing and supporting the project every step of the way. While membership has changed, the SUS Task Force still meets to this day.

The CHANGE Study: Preventing Unhealthy Weight Gain Among Children in Rural America

2008 – 2010

This project expanded the work of Shape Up Somerville to four regions across the country. The CHANGE Study encouraged context specific, culturally tailored adoption of environmental and policy changes to promote health among school-aged children at high risk who live in rural communities at economic disadvantage.


What Worked

      • School food improvements: Program components included new policies or regulations for the foods served, introduction of new menu offerings, purchase of new equipment and trainings for school food staff.
      • Community-wide physical activity: A tailored physical activity campaign implemented either through employee wellness programs or community-wide physical fitness challenges
      • Nutrition and physical activity education: Designed to promote adherence to the 5-4-3-2-1-0 recommendations in a culturally and developmentally appropriate way: 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, 4 servings of fiber, 3 servings of low-fat dairy, less than 2 hours of screen time, at least 1 hour of physical activity, and 0 sugar-sweetened beverages per day
      • Participatory approach: While some components of the intervention were cross-cutting, each community was empowered to tailor aspects of program implementation to suit their unique needs. Our team helped build capacity for implementation partners in each community, creating the conditions for a health changes beyond the specific timeframe of this project.

The Balance Project

2008 – 2010

The Balance Project was a randomized controlled trial whose goal is to prevent obesity in 1st-3rd grade children and their families, from racially diverse communities at economic disadvantage in three urban cities in the U.S. We used a community-based approach to mobilize communities towards environmental and policy-level change through the provision of technical assistance, professional development, provision of intervention materials and funding.


What worked:

      • High-quality intervention materials: A variety of programs, developed and tested during the original Shape Up Somerville study, were instituted in elementary schools that enabled children to be active and to gain greater access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
      • Family and community engagement: Family fun nights, community races, and cook-offs provided opportunities for children and family members to develop their skills and build self-efficacy in living healthy and active lifestyles.
      • Technical support and training: Our team provided technical support and professional development to project personnel in each community to ensure high-quality program delivery.
      • Funding to support program activities: We funded for each community to hire and support core staff to implement and evaluate the project, and provided innovation grants to each community to promote innovative new programs and policies.

Children in Balance Leadership Institute

2009 – 2010

We engaged leaders in 20 different communities across the country to educate and empower them to improve childhood health.


What worked:

  • Hands-on trainings: Each community sent a team of representatives from school food service, schools, government, public health department, community organizations to participate in the 4-day Community Leadership Institute.
  • Technical assistance to drive evidence-based implementation: Topics that were covered included: working with school food service to improve school food, building community coalitions, strategic use of communication campaigns, and implementing nutrition and physical activity curricula.


2009 – present

ChildObesity180 brings the best from science, business, and technology to reverse the trend of childhood obesity. We are committed to driving impact and accelerating progress by providing leadership, fostering collaboration, and building partnerships at senior levels of a range of organizations that are positioned to play a pivotal role in improving health across the lifespan, from prenatal and early childhood to adolescence and early adulthood.


What works:

      • Multisector leadership and collaboration: ChildObesity180 used its cross-sector composition, diverse connections, and expertise to generate urgency, traction, and impact to drive change on a national scale. We worked toward accelerating the pace of change and preventing childhood obesity in communities across the nation. Our commitment to multi-sector collaboration was reflected in the composition of the Charter Membership, core leadership, staff, and partners
      • Sustainability: From the inception of an idea to the implementation of our national initiatives, ChildObesity180 focused on sustainable, long-term impact. Innovative partnerships and engaging diverse funders were two of the strategies we emphasized in order to develop and implement our initiatives. Over time, we envision that the types of solutions developed by our initiatives will be embedded and sustained in childhood obesity prevention efforts across the nation.
      • Evidence based interventions: ChildObesity180 was committed to using the best available scientific evidence to inform our decisions. This means that we used evidence-based research to develop our initiatives and monitor and measure our performance against established goals. Whenever compelling new evidence was generated, through our own research efforts or through the work of other experts, we updated our approach based on this new knowledge.
      • Diverse portfolio of iniatives: Recognizing that no one solution will solve the childhood obesity epidemic or the inequities among demographic groups, we were committed to executing a diverse portfolio of high-impact initiatives that collectively influenced a child’s daily energy balance.