Gaining Traction – Five years, 132,000+ kids later

Authored by Karen Voci, Executive Director
Harvard Pilgrim Foundation

Girl with TomatoesFive years ago the Harvard Pilgrim Foundation decided to take a bite out of childhood obesity. We were driven by one simple fact: One in three children in the US is overweight or obese. Our kids are in trouble.

We knew that a massive, consistent, and unified effort with strong partners would be needed to reverse the trend. We also knew that as a small philanthropic organization—a David up against Goliath—we needed to aim our slingshot very strategically.

Our approach was clear: change the environments where children and their families live, study and play, to make the healthier choice the easier choice. We wanted to do this by investing in smart, evidence-based programs— like Let’s Go! — that could provide consistent, healthy opportunities, and by working to change policies.

Now, through the Foundation’s newest publication Gaining Traction, we are sharing lessons learned, best practices, and what we see as the next steps in the fight against childhood obesity. But we couldn’t have gotten here on our own.

Since 2007, we’ve supported Let’s Go! 5210 Goes to School to help reach students with positive lessons about healthy eating and active living. And it’s working! Together, we’ve reached 358 programs and 114,000 students across Maine: 83% of schools report using strategies that limit sugar-sweetened beverages, 78% report providing more opportunities to students to drink water. More than half of schools report changes to incorporate more physical activity in to the school day, and 51% have limited recreational screen time.

Gaining Traction PublicationAnd in 2012, the Foundation made a three-year, $1.5 million commitment to support Let’s Go! Healthcare. The folks at Let’s Go! and MaineHealth get it. And we agree with them that providing physicians with the tools to communicate the same healthy messages that kids see in schools and after school programs is the next logical step in ensuring that these messages stick.

I’m thrilled to say that things have changed dramatically and are still evolving in the places where kids spend their time. School cafeterias are serving less pizza and more fruit. Kids are doing jumping jacks as they recite the multiplication table. And families are cutting down on screen time.

There’s still a lot of work to do, but with partners like Let’s Go! we know we’ll get there.


Our post today comes from Karen Voci, Executive Director at Harvard Pilgrim Foundation, a generous supporter of Let’s Go!. In addition to the funding described in the blog above Harvard Pilgrim Foundation recently awarded a $100,000 grant to support the Let’s Go! 5-2-1-0 Goes to School project. Let’s Go! would like to take this opportunity to extend our gratitude to Harvard Pilgrim Foundation for this latest award and for their ongoing support!