Rockville, Md. – New studies show that First 5 LA’s investments to reduce early childhood obesity (RECO) significantly reduced obesity prevalence among children ages 2-5 in the communities where RECO activities occurred and in Los Angeles County as a whole. First 5 LA’s 18 RECO investments, which funded 24 grants, focused on low-income communities across Los Angeles County and included a wide variety of activities such as education, media campaigns, financial incentives, building or improving parks, and policy changes, according to studies by Abt Associates.
First 5 LA is a Los Angeles based public grant-maker and early childhood advocacy organization. First 5 agencies were created throughout California by voters to invest Proposition 10 tobacco tax revenues in early childhood health and development.
The Abt study of county-level impacts estimated a reduction of 2.16 percentage points in the rate of overweight children and a reduction of 0.67 percentage points in the child obesity rate in Los Angeles County overall. Looking at Los Angeles County communities where RECO activities occurred, the community-level study indicated RECO activities reduced early childhood obesity rates by 0.59 percentage points, on average. Impacts were even greater in majority non-White communities, where RECO reduced early childhood obesity by 1 percentage point. Study partners included UCLA, Sarah Samuels Center, and Populous Consulting.
“Achieving change in LA County is no small feat,” said Michelle Blocklin, who directed Abt’s evaluations. “It is large and diverse and has many children in need.” Los Angeles County has more than 10 million residents and an annual birth rate of more than 130,000 in an area that stretches for more than 4,000 square miles. About two-thirds of the population under age 5 is served by the Women, Infants, and Children program. As elsewhere, obesity is a major public health problem in Los Angeles County, and early childhood is a critical time for preventing it.
“In partnership with First 5 LA, Public Health brought together a diverse group of community partners to engage and empower residents across the county to achieve large scale impact for the families who needed it most,” said Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, a RECO grant recipient. “We continue to work together to achieve health equity and provide vital services to our youngest and most vulnerable residents.”
About Abt Associates
Abt Associates is a global consulting and research firm that uses data and bold thinking to improve the quality of people’s lives. From assessing the quality of early childhood settings and conducting rigorous program evaluations to inform policy to combatting infectious disease and promoting access to affordable housing—and more—we partner with clients and communities to tackle their most complex challenges. https://www.abtassociates.com