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CEOs launch childhood obesity initiative

April 30, 2014

A group of prominent corporate executives has created a new organization to find ways to reduce obesity among central Indiana children.

Jump IN for Healthy Kids has a budget of $1.5 million and his hired Indianapolis attorney Ron Gifford to spearhead the effort. Gifford most recently was executive vice president of public policy at the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, a group of the CEOs of the region's major companies and universities.

Jump IN was founded by 17 local executives, including Eli Lilly and Co. CEO John Lechleiter, Roche Diagnostics Corp. CEO Jack Phillips, Anthem Indiana President Rob Hillman, Indiana Pacers President Jim Morris, IUPUI Chancellor Charles Bantz, Indianapolis Star Publisher Karen Crotchfelt, Lilly Endowment CEO Clay Robbins, United Way of Central Indiana CEO Ann Murtlow, YMCA of Greater Indianapolis CEO Eric Ellsworth, and the CEOs of the major hospital systems in Indianapolis.

The group hopes to identify successful efforts to improve diet, activity and healthy choices among children and their families—both around Indianapolis and around the country—and then work to replicate or adapt those efforts to reach more people in the metro area.

“In order to reduce the obesity rate, you really have to change the culture,” Gifford said. “And in order to change the culture, you have to address all aspects. You have to attack the entire problem essentially at once.”

For that reason, Jump IN hopes to work with schools, churches, employers, medical providers, grocery stores, neighborhood associations and individual families in its efforts to reduce childhood obesity.

Roughly 20 percent of American children are obese, according to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, with the rate of teen obesity having quadrupled over the past 30 years.

Being obese makes children more likely to develop diabetes and other medical ailments. The Medicaid program nationally spends roughly three times more money each year on medical care for obese children as it does on children of normal weight, according to statistics collected by Jump IN.

Jump IN is working with state health professionals to develop an accurate measurement of childhood obesity in Indiana and, once it does so, will then set a “real but aggressive goal” for reducing it, Gifford said.

“One of our challenges is that the data is a little sketchy” locally, Gifford said.

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