The new initiative, a Healthy Schools Program that forms part of the Clinton Foundation's and AHA's Alliance for a Healthier Generation, recently held its first forum where Clinton addressed representatives from around 200 US schools.
Designed to address the root causes of childhood obesity, the forum encouraged the establishment of certain nutritional and physical education standards. These included the nutritional levels of foods offered in school cafeterias as well as other foods sold on school grounds.
" I believe these standards can be a great step forward in shaping the health, education, and well-being of the next generation and they will encourage more and more schools to provide healthy environments for the millions of students in America's schools today," said Clinton at the Forum, which marked the official launch of the Alliance's Healthy Schools Program.
The initiative aims to effect change in schools through a criteria based recognition program that rewards schools for creating a healthier place for students to learn.
Criteria for candy and snack products sold in schools include guidelines on calorie and fat content, as well as salt and sugar content.
For specific recommended levels, click here.
Other speakers at the recent forum, which took place at the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas, included Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, former US Surgeon General Dr David Satcher and Dr Howell Wechsler, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Division of Adolescent and School Health.
As well as promoting changes in the school environment, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation has also partnered with the number one kids' television network Nickelodeon on the Let's Just Play Go Healthy Challenge - an on-air, online and grassroots effort to mobilize kids to adopt healthy lifestyles. To date, over 100,000 kids have pledged to Go Healthy as a result of the campaign.
The American Heart Association also recently released independent nutritional guidelines for children, underlining that arteriosclerosis begins at a young age, and that those who follow a poor diet and take too little exercise may already have a build-up of plaque in the arteries by adolescence.
Furthermore, type 2 Diabetes, which used to be known as adult onset diabetes, is now increasingly being diagnosed in kids, adding to the cardiovascular risk profile of children.
Indeed, childhood obesity has gained significant attention in the health care and child welfare arenas over the past five years. In 2002, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) cited that 16 percent of children aged 6-11 were overweight, with the same percentage holding true for 12-19 year olds.
Worldwide over 22 million children under five are severely overweight. Experts say junk food and low exercise levels, combined with the popularity of computer games and television, are behind the growing obesity rates.