Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health


Epidemiology & Community Health

First Advisor

Cornelia Ramsey


The 2009 Virginia General Assembly Session unanimously voted to change the legislation governing the Virginia Tobacco Settlement Foundation to create the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (VFHY) and incorporate childhood overweight and obesity prevention and reduction in its mission. In order to successfully meet the requirements of this legislation, VFHY needed assistance developing a strategic plan for the obesity initiative and a knowledge base to draw from. A comprehensive assessment of the status of Virginia’s childhood obesity problem was conducted, including the prevalence of the illness, the barriers existing to and the benefits to obesity prevention programs, the need for obesity prevention programs, and the desired route to developing a plan for action. Prior to this assessment, no clear picture of the complexity of Virginia’s childhood obesity problem existed outside of the facts: Virginia ranks 25th in the country for percentage of overweight or obese children; one-third of new obesity diagnoses in Virginia each year occur in children; Virginia’s African American population (19%) is significantly higher than the national average (12%); and research shows that African American children and adolescents have a higher rate and risk of overweight or obesity and a need for exposure to obesity-prevention programs. Research from respected and peer-reviewed sources on childhood overweight and obesity was conducted and the data compiled. This information was utilized to develop a new website for VFHY, provide education to the staff, and to develop a survey for the Board of Directors to guide strategic plan development. An assessment of the state of Virginia’s problem with childhood overweight and obesity was conducted from this research and a closer look was taken at the needs of Virginia’s public schools. Education on the benefits of implementing childhood obesity prevention and reduction programs was conducted via presentations at Board meetings and obesity workgroup meetings, as well as one-on-one to the VFHY staff. Finally, materials were developed to promote VYOP and its mission to consumers. The assessment of Virginia’s childhood overweight and obesity problem resulted in: increased VFHY staff competence regarding the issue and confidence in combating it; location of potential funding streams; a centralization of childhood overweight and obesity reduction and prevention efforts for Virginia; and the utilization of supplemental programs and street marketing to implement change in Virginia’s children and youth regarding factors surrounding overweight and obesity. VYOP is examining marketing approaches that would be successful for obesity reduction and prevention and is actively determining partners for their efforts who can impact economic development initiatives that will positively change behaviors. The combination of the ecological perspective and the social marketing theory to develop communication strategies and a strategic plan will help Virginia to decrease childhood overweight and obesity due to the multi-factorial nature of the problem. The strategies will take time to implement, and will be constantly evaluated and revised to best fit the needs of Virginia’s children and youth, but with patience and perseverance, VFHY will be as successful with its obesity prevention and reduction efforts as it has been with those targeting youth tobacco use.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

December 2009

Included in

Epidemiology Commons