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For Release:
May 04, 2011

Mary E. O'Dowd, M.P.H.
Acting Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160

ShapingNJ Partners Meet to Tackle Obesity in New Jersey


ShapingNJ, a public/private partnership of more than 150 organizations dedicated to curbing obesity in New Jersey will meet on May 5 at the Robert Wood Johnson Center for Health and Fitness from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Hamilton to share progress and develop ways to increase healthy food and physical activity in New Jersey.


“Research shows that when people have access to and support for healthy choices, they are more likely to make better and more informed health decisions,” said Health and Senior Services Acting Commissioner Mary O’Dowd.  “Over a lifetime, these healthy choices prevent obesity and other serious, disabling and expensive chronic diseases—including diabetes, heart disease and some cancers—that can result from obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.”


The May 5th meeting will open with Assistant Commissioner Gloria Rodriguez delivering welcome remarks to demonstrate the DHSS’s support for this work. Keynote speaker Larry Cohen, founder of Prevention Institute, will motivate partners with a presentation on creating social change movements. Sheree Vodicka and Brooke Findley from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Physical Activity and Nutrition Branch will focus on key messaging and co-branding to promote sustainable change. The Department will also release new Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS) data, as well as offer participants a chance to learn more about promising practices of partners’ efforts to implement our strategies thus far. 


ShapingNJ is comprised of local health departments, businesses, school districts, hospitals and child care agencies from across New Jersey. The program is coordinated by the Office of Nutrition & Fitness in DHSS with support from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The coalition is working to “make the healthy choice the easy choice” for everyone in our state. 


ShapingNJ partners are spearheading multiple statewide efforts to increase access to healthy food and beverages and increase daily opportunities to be physically active.  Ten pilot communities are cultivating vegetable gardens, marking walking trails, installing bike racks and replacing unhealthy snacks with healthy options at school parties and in municipal vending machines. Two efforts aim to achieve essential policy change.  Ten maternity hospitals have also begun to change organizational policies in order to promote exclusive breastfeeding from birth. Additionally, a coalition of providers and advocates have submitted policy recommendations to revise state licensure requirements to ensure that child care centers deliver only healthy food and drink and lots of active play to the children in their care. 


 “Curbing the obesity epidemic is a long-term challenge requiring all sectors of society to pitch in.  All New Jerseyans deserve to live, learn, work and play in active, healthy environments and we are working to create a social movement towards healthy change,” said Peri Nearon, director of the Office of Nutrition & Fitness. “We hope this meeting will equip our partners with more tools to create such change and give them a chance to network with each other to help them sustain their momentum.”


For additional information, contact the Office of Nutrition & Fitness at (609) 292-2209 or electronically at

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