News Release

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

NIH Launches We Can! City Program — South Bend and Gary, Indiana, and Roswell, Georgia, Are First To Be Named We Can! Cities Committed to Nationwide Effort to Prevent Childhood Overweight

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has established the We Can! City Program to assist towns and cities across the nation in mobilizing their communities to prevent childhood overweight. We Can! (Ways to Enhance Children’s Activity and Nutrition) is a national education program developed by the NIH, a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to help youth ages 8-13 maintain a healthy weight.

The first three cities to be selected for the program are:

  • South Bend, Indiana
  • Gary, Indiana
  • Roswell, Georgia

NIH officials will present the mayor of each of the three inaugural cities a specially designed road sign: "We Can! CityUSA — Working with the National Institutes of Health to promote healthy weight, healthy children." The presentations are part of two-day regional events hosted by the NIH and local We Can! community sites in Indiana (April 30-May 1) and Georgia (May 3-4). Each event will be attended by 150 community leaders from more than a dozen states. The events will showcase the local efforts and feature national experts on the science-based curricula developed for youth and for parents to promote healthy lifestyles.

"The National Institutes of Health developed We Can! to bring to our communities research-based information and strategies to teach children how to adopt behaviors that can help them maintain a healthy weight," notes NIH Director Elias Zerhouni, M.D. "Through the efforts of communities like South Bend, Gary, and Roswell, we can make a difference."

As part of the We Can! City Program, NIH will provide technical assistance on planning and implementing We Can! in the participating cities, as well as materials such as parent handbooks, posters, videos, and the one-stop resource "We Can! Energize Our Community: Toolkit for Action." Each city has pledged to offer We Can! evidence-based obesity prevention programs to both parents and youth in collaboration with community-based partners. In addition, each city will distribute We Can! tips and information to city employees.

Childhood overweight is a growing national epidemic. The percentage of children and teens who are overweight has more than doubled in the past 30 years, and today one in three children ages 2-19 are overweight or at risk of becoming overweight. Like adults, overweight youth are at risk for health problems such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, heart disease, and asthma.

To help address these issues, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute developed We Can! in collaboration with three other NIH institutes: the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; and the National Cancer Institute. The program offers parents, health professionals, youth, and community groups evidence-based programs and activities to help children ages 8-13 maintain a healthy weight.

We Can! focuses on three important behaviors: improved food choices, increased physical activity and reduced recreational screen time. For example, a curriculum for parents provides strategies for maintaining “energy balance,” or the long-term balance between energy in (calories from food) and energy out (calories used through activity). Three curricula for youth teach important concepts such as controlling portion size, reading food labels, learning new physical activities, "weaning the screen" to reduce sedentary time, and learning how media can influence their food and physical activity choices.

When We Can! launched in June 2005, 14 Intensive Community Sites, including the three inaugural We Can! Cities, were selected by the NIH to pilot the nationwide program. Today, 173 communities in 39 states have joined the We Can! effort as a We Can! community site. The We Can! City program extends communities' efforts in towns and cities committing to improving the health and well being of their youth by preventing childhood obesity.

For more information on We Can!, visit or call toll-free 1-866-35-WeCan.

Part of the National Institutes of Health, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) plans, conducts, and supports research related to the causes, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart, blood vessel, lung, and blood diseases; and sleep disorders. The Institute also administers national health education campaigns on women and heart disease, healthy weight for children, and other topics. NHLBI press releases and other materials are available online at:

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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