Innovative Efforts Have Philadelphia Seeing Big Drops in Obesity Among Youth of Color
The poorest of America’s 10 largest cities, Philadelphia for too long provided many residents with an overabundance of unhealthy choices: school children could buy almost 350 calories of candy, chips or soda for about one dollar at more than 1,500 corner stores in the city; city schools had minimal physical education requirements; and safe recreation places were a rarity. As a result, some 1,600 Philadelphians died each year as a result of poor diet and physical inactivity, with obesity adding $750 million annually to health care costs in the city.
Philadelphia needed to find an effective intervention to mitigate obesity throughout the city.
Through Get Healthy Philly, city health officials fostered health-promoting environments for all city residents. By building on earlier achievements, the initiative has:
- Seen nutritional-related successes: 13 new farmers’ markets opened in low-income communities, which helped increase an innovative SNAP (food stamp) redemption at farmer’s markets by 335 percent; 650 corner stores today sell healthy items, such as produce, water and low-fat dairy; 200 Chinese take-out restaurants are reducing the sodium content of popular dishes by 20 to 30 percent; and removed junk foods from classrooms and school stores.
- Adopted physical activity infrastructure and policies: 9.7 miles of conventional bicycle lanes, 6.7 miles of new buffered bike lanes, 2.0 miles of green bicycle lanes and 8.9 miles of “sharrows” or shared bicycle lanes installed; and Wellness Councils in 171 public schools serving 100,000 students have incorporated physical activity into the school day.
- Led to policy change: healthy living and health impact assessments are integrated into Philadelphia 2035, the city’s new comprehensive plan, and into 5 district plans; Mayoral executive order establishing nutrition standards for all 22 million meals and snacks purchased and served by City agencies passed; and
- Launched mass media efforts: campaigns have been implemented tofocus on reducing sugary drink and sodium consumption.