Childhood Obesity Prevention

The Issue

Nearly one third of all U.S. children and adolescents are overweight or obese. Racial and ethnic minorities experience the highest rates of overweight and obesity when compared to whites, and the Midwest and Southern regions of the U.S. have disproportionately high rates. Most recent estimates for the prevalence of obesity among low-income preschool children are alarming.

Unless we act now, today’s children are likely to be the first generation to live sicker lives and die younger than their parents’ generation.


In addition to individual level behaviors, environment can also play a large role in dietary and physical activity behaviors for youth and their families. Researchers at the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition believe that influencing policy and changing environments to be “healthier” in addition to enabling youth and their families at an individual level to help choose foods of better dietary quality and increase physical activity behaviors can ultimately have a positive impact and empower youth and their families to live healthier lives.

Childhood obesity prevention includes the study of nutrition and physical activity programs across multiple levels to understand where change is most likely to occur. The Center’s research is guided by a socio-ecological model that influences behaviors at the individual, environmental and policy levels.

We conduct and assist others in conducting research that includes but is not limited to:

  • Behavioral interventions
  • Diet and physical activity assessment methodology
  • Etiological studies
  • Observational studies
  • Secondary data analyses
  • Diffusion and dissemination

Our Work in Healthy Food Access

Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools

The Center worked in partnership with Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools (LMSB2S) to complete a post-implementation survey of 585 school districts that received salad bars through the LMSB2S program. To read the project’s executive summary, click here. Or glance at this infographic for a quick overview.

LiveWell Colorado

Center staff members have provided evaluation, curriculum development and chef knowledge testing for the LiveWell@School Food Initiative for LiveWell Colorado. In particular, the curriculum consists of the Chef Consultant Teaching Guide, the Chef Consultant Training Manual and the Participant Handbook. A preview of the Teaching Guide, which will be used by LiveWell Colorado to instruct Chef Consultants how to effectively teach the LWC material to adult learners (school food service directors and their staff), is now available here.

Snack & Go

In 2014, Center scientific team members led evaluation efforts on a new “Snack&GO” corner store project developed by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. The goal of the Snack&GO effort is to assist corner and convenience stores in providing and marketing healthy snacks (as defined by nutrition standard criteria) to shoppers. The evaluation assessed the feasibility of working with corner and convenience stores in increasing access to healthy snacks, as well as how effective efforts were in promoting healthy snacks to customers. The Snack&GO corner store effort was piloted in stores in Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy and Cass counties in Nebraska, and will be expanded to schools. Read the final report here.

Our Work in Early Care

The Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition developed a video series that instructs childcare providers and parents to teach children (up to age five) about nutrition during meals. To develop these videos, the Center established a working group called the Omaha Nutrition Education Collaborative. A research scientist from the Center convened and facilitated this group, which consisted of individuals from six sectors.


View the report “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2014

Learn about the Center’s collaboration with a South Omaha restaurant to study healthy children’s menu changes.

Institute of Medicine’s “Early Childhood Obesity Prevention Policies” report released on June 23, 2011.

Promoting a Healthier Next Generation” information and tips for parents, presented by Dr. Amy Yaroch, Center executive director, at Westside Community Schools’ “Food (R)evolution” event in Omaha, Neb.

“Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity within a Generation,” White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity Report to the President. Read the Report.

Search the “Catalogue of Surveillance Systems” Relevant to Childhood Obesity Research.

“Addressing the ‘Health’ in Health Care: Nutrition, Prevention, and Wellness Practices” Read the transcript from Dr. Amy Yaroch’s Field Hearing before the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Nutrition.

Read the article “Poverty, Food Insecurity, and Obesity: A Conceptual Framework for Research, Practice, and Policy” in the Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition.