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Defining the Problem, Preventing Chronic Diseases, Improving the Public’s Health

Woman holding bag of groceries98 million Americans have obesity.  Between 1980 and 2010, the number of adults with obesity doubled and tripled among children. Since 2010, rates have been steady, even declined among young children, but too many people still have obesity. Obesity reduces quality of life and increases individuals’ risk for other diseases including diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. Obesity severely impacts the U.S. economy, approximately $147 billion in annual health care costs.

The Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity (DNPAO) supports healthy eating, active living, and obesity prevention by creating healthy child care centers, hospitals, schools, and worksites; building capacity of state health departments and national organizations; and, conducting research, surveillance and evaluation studies.


DNPAO’s activities aim to achieve three goals related to risk factors for illness, disability, and premature death.

  • Improve dietary quality to support healthy child development and reduce chronic disease
  • Increase health-related physical activity for people of all ages
  • Decrease prevalence of obesity through prevention of weight gain and maintenance of healthy weight

DNPAO Core Functions

  • National leadership
  • Surveillance
  • Applied research
  • Evaluation
  • Program development and technical assistance
  • Promote evidence-based practice
  • Training
  • Partnership development
  • Policy analysis
  • Communication and media relations

Healthy People in Healthy Places

Young girl holding basket of vegetablesDNPAO promotes healthy food and activity choices through environments that ensure the availability of free, good-tasting water, safe locations for physical activity, and healthier foods including affordable fruits and vegetables. Additionally, DNPAO promotes breastfeeding and helps reduce vitamin and mineral deficiencies that affect nearly one-third of the world’s population.

Disparities in physical activity, nutrition and obesity are well documented, and DNPAO works to achieve optimal health for all population groups including those most impacted by chronic diseases.  

DNPAO Priorities

  • Strengthen public health capacity to promote healthy eating and physical activity
  • Increase breastfeeding support
  • Improve child care environments
  • Promote food service guidelines
  • Increase healthy food and beverage purchases
  • Promote healthy foods and beverages in K-12 (with DPH)
  • Support healthy diets through micronutrient fortification and supplementation
  • Increase physical activity in worksites
  • Make communities more walkable

Division Leadership

  • Janet Collins, PhD, Director
  • Ann O’Connor, MPA, Deputy Director (Acting)
  • Deborah Galuska, PhD, Assoc. Director of Science
  • Janelle Gunn, MPH, Acting Assoc. Director of Policy, Partnership and Communication
  • Rosanne Farris, PhD, Chief, Program Development and Evaluation Branch
  • Kelly Scanlon, PhD, Acting Chief, Nutrition Branch
  • Ken Rose, MPA, Acting Chief, Physical Activity and Health Branch
  • Captain Heidi Blanck, PhD, Chief, Obesity Prevention and Control Branch


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