The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) formally began to address overweight and obesity in New Jersey in 2002. Prior to that, activities centered on health conditions resulting from obesity - such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other conditions.
The first New Jersey Childhood Obesity Roundtable was held on June 27, 2002 to address the growing health challenge of childhood obesity. Fifty stakeholder groups attended the Roundtable, sponsored by the DHSS, Rutgers University Department of Nutritional Sciences and the NJ Obesity Group. The attendees focused on what could be done in the following areas: Schools, Community, Industry/worksites, Insurance/HMOs, Legislative/policy, Advertising/advocacy, Government and Research.
In 2003, the New Jersey legislature established a New Jersey Obesity Prevention Task Force, led by the DHSS. This Task Force comprised 27 members, including 23 public members representing healthcare professions, educators, public health professionals, the food industry, as well as sports and recreation professionals.
As a result of the Roundtable and Task Force, New Jersey made several advances in creating an environment for obesity prevention:
- In 2004, DHSS collaborated on "Common Ground", a conference co-sponsored by the Department of Transportation and the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center (VTC) of the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) that addressed the impact of the built environment on obesity.
- The Task Force developed obesity prevention recommendations, which were presented to the governor and legislature in 2006.
- In March 2007, Family Health Services, a division of DHSS, and Rutgers' Cooperative Extension began to collaborate on a statewide obesity prevention campaign, "Get Moving, Get Healthy NJ!". This campaign, designed to encourage individuals, families, and communities to adopt a healthy lifestyle through healthy eating and physical activity, involves educational programs, targeted marketing campaigns, and other strategies.
In May 2007, as a result of a recommendation by the Obesity Prevention Task Force, the Office of Nutrition and Fitness (ONF) was established within Family Health Services (FHS). ONF is the first state level office in the country to focus on obesity.