(Partner: National Association of County and City Health Officials)
Through ACHIEVE, Alexandria plans to increase awareness of childhood obesity; promote breastfeeding; work with early childcare providers to increase physical activity and nutrition knowledge and implementation in centers; increase the availability of healthy foods through community gardens, farmers markets, and grocery store initiatives; work with planning and zoning to ensure healthy food access; develop a partnership with churches and synagogues to host nutrition and healthy cooking classes; and work to pass a Complete Streets ordinance and increase play spaces for children.
Alexandria is an urban multi-cultural community of 136,000 people. An estimated 25 percent of the population, or nearly 32,000 individuals, are foreign-born. Approximately 36,000 individuals age five or older speak a language other than English at home. The population includes approximately 25,000 children; more than half of the children in public schools qualify for free and reduced lunches. Approximately 22,000 individuals have income below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Located in the National Capitol Region, this historic city occupies a landmass of 15.75 square miles, making it the most densely populated area in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Alexandria's policy leaders are strongly committed to equitable access to healthy foods and recreation spaces for all of its residents.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Kaiser Family Foundation, as many as 58 percent of all Virginians are overweight or obese. Between 1993 and 2003, obesity in Virginia jumped 10 percent. This increase was more than any other state in the nation (www.healthyvirginians.virginia.gov). As there was previously no comprehensive primary data on overweight and obesity prevalence or risk factors in Northern Virginia, Inova Health System undertook a comprehensive Healthy Weight Collaborative survey in 2007 on obesity among parents and children, ages two to eighteen. According to survey findings, 26.4 percent or approximately 100,000 children in Northern Virginia are either overweight or obese. The findings for Alexandrian children, ages two to five, were particularly concerning as 43.5 percent are overweight or obese. The prevalence of overweight children in this younger age bracket is significantly higher than that of other Alexandrian children (23.5% of children ages 6-10; 13.1% of children ages 11-14; 13.7% of children ages 15-18). Alexandrian children who are Hispanic (32.9% overweight/obese) or with income below 200 percent of the federal poverty level (29.9% overweight/obese) are particularly at risk. The Healthy Weight Collaborative survey was a "call to action" for Alexandria to create a community action plan to encourage healthier lifestyles for all of its children and to begin addressing the disparities outlined by the survey.