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chronic disease prevention, local health departments, nutrition and physical activity, obesity prevention



  1. Schwarte, Liz MPH
  2. Samuels, Sarah E. DrPH
  3. Boyle, Maria MS, RD
  4. Clark, Sarah E. BA
  5. Flores, George MD, MPH
  6. Prentice, Bob PhD


The purpose of this research was to assess California public health departments capacity, practices, and resources for changing nutrition and physical activity environments for obesity prevention. The researchers surveyed key public health department personnel representing all 61 health departments in California using a Web-based survey tool. The response rate for the survey was 62 percent. This represented a 93 percent health department response rate. Analysis was conducted on the individual respondent and public health department levels and stratified by metropolitan statistical area and foundation-funded versus not foundation-funded. Public health departments are engaged in obesity prevention including environmental and policy change approaches. The majority of respondents stated that monitoring obesity rates and providing leadership for obesity prevention are important roles for public health. Health departments are involved in advocacy for healthier eating and/or physical activity in school environments and the development and monitoring of city/county policies to improve the food and/or physical activity environments. Funding and staff skill may influence the degree of public health department engagement in obesity prevention. A majority of respondents rate their staffing capacity for improving nutrition and physical activity environments as inadequate. Access to flexible foundation funding may influence how public health departments engage in obesity prevention.