Our Evolution

History of ChildObesity180

In 2009, Drs. Christina Economos and Miriam Nelson, nationally-recognized researchers in nutrition and physical activity, and Mr. Peter Dolan, former CEO of Bristol-Myers Squibb, saw an opportunity to take a fresh approach to the issue of childhood obesity.

Their idea? Bring together academic experts with leaders from business, government, and nonprofit organizations to address this national epidemic. The expertise and varied perspectives of these Charter Members were instrumental in guiding our approach to addressing the complex problem of childhood obesity.

From the outset, ChildObesity180’s mission has been to reverse the trend of childhood obesity using a strategic, coordinated, and evidence-based approach that improves the health and well-being of US children in meaningful and lasting ways. With the power of Tufts University Friedman School and early support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, this approach was the genesis of ChildObesity180.

Chaired by Mr. Dolan and vice-chaired and directed by Dr. Economos, ChildObesity180 envisioned, developed, and implemented a new model of obesity prevention, one that blended the rigor of science with business-minded practices to identify innovative, integrated solutions that could be scaled nationwide. From the beginning, ChildObesity180 reviewed hundreds of key strategies to determine where it could add value to ongoing efforts to address childhood obesity. Collectively, these programs aimed to ensure that children achieve healthy growth without excessive weight gain through increased physical activity and nutritious eating.

In its first phase, ChildObesity180 reached over 12 million children in all 50 states through a four-stage process of discovery (evidence generation), innovation (translation of evidence to action), piloting (implementation refinement), and scaling (national application of approaches). The solutions developed by our initiatives were embedded and sustained in obesity-prevention efforts across the nation, and our evaluation of the impact of those initiatives has advanced the science of obesity prevention.


Peter Dolan with Chris

Where We Are Now

As the science around obesity prevention has evolved, so too has our organization. We have broadened and strengthened our mission, vision, and approach to supporting the health of children and communities across the country.

At ChildObesity180, we have strengthened our commitment to addressing health equity and reducing health disparities by integrating a systems perspective into all the work that we do. Our approach explicitly recognizes and accounts for the complex drivers that shape environments and impact behavior and health outcomes at a systemic level.

As our work has evolved, we have expanded the age range of the populations with whom we work, moving away from a specific focus on school-aged children 5 to 12 years old to a broader age range that includes maternal and early child health (from preconception through 5 years) and adolescent and young adulthood (13-21 years). We believe that this expansion best positions us for sustainable impact across the lifespan and that it reflects a growing understanding of the importance of early prevention to reduce the burden of disease in later childhood and adulthood.

We recognize that we face, around the country and the world, an increasingly complex challenge in keeping children healthy and well; this challenge motivates and compels us to act flexibly and compassionately to ensure all children have the opportunity to thrive.