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About Us

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

CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity is at the forefront of decreasing obesity in the U. S., including contributing to the decline in obesity among children ages 2-5. However, obesity still affects almost 1 in 5 children and 1 in 3 adults, putting people at risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. Obesity costs the US health care system $147 billion a year and over a quarter of all Americans 17 to 24 years are too heavy to join the military. DNPAO protects the health of Americans at every stage of life by encouraging regular physical activity and good nutrition. We support the toddler eating healthy snacks and playing actively in child care, the student being able to walk to school, the mother who chooses to breastfeed, and the older adult who can walk safely and have access to healthy foods in their own neighborhood.

Woman holding bag of groceries

98 million Americans have obesity.  Between 1980 and 2010, the percentage of people with obesity doubled among adults 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.

Cover: DNPAO OverviewDivision Overview [PDF-7.36MB]
This booklet provides an overview about how DNPAO works to keep Americans healthy and strong at every state of life.

Cover: Nutrition FactsheetNutrition Factsheet [PDF-3.37MB]
This fact sheet describes how DNPAO’s nutrition efforts support public health strategies and programs across the nation.

Cover: Physical Activity Factsheet Physical Activity Factsheet [PDF-1.56MB]
This fact sheet provides an overview of how DNPAO promotes increased access to safe and convenient places and opportunities for people to be physically active.

Cover: Obesity FactsheetObesity Factsheet [PDF-1.66MB]
This fact sheet highlights DNPAO’s focus on evidence-based strategies to make healthy eating and active living accessible and affordable for all Americans.

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

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

  • 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

  • Ruth Petersen, MD, MPH
    Director
  • Ann O’Connor, MPA
    Deputy Director
  • Deborah Galuska, PhD
    Assoc. Director of Science
  • Janelle Gunn, MPH
    Assoc. Director of Policy, Partnership and Communication
  • Paulette Murphy, MLIS
    Program Management Official (Acting)
  • Terry O’Toole, PhD
    Chief, Program Development and Evaluation Branch
  • Rafael Flores-Ayala, DrPH
    Chief, Nutrition Branch
  • Janet Fulton, PhD
    Chief, Physical Activity and Health Branch
  • Captain Heidi Blanck, PhD
    Chief, Obesity Prevention and Control Branch

Young girl holding basket of vegetables DNPAO 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.

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