Project Carrot for The Centers for Disease Control

Combating childhood obesity by improving food environments for tweens

One out of every three children in the United States today is overweight or obese, a growing problem that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has grappled with for years. While CDC deftly handles sudden health crises of global proportions, such as flu pandemics, the agency’s efforts to control more insidious “lifestyle” diseases, such as childhood obesity and related chronic illnesses, receive fewer headlines and are less familiar to the public. The CDC recently expanded its efforts to support America’s youth by launching Project Carrot, a program aimed at exploring how environmental changes, health policies, and marketing/communication efforts could be better integrated to deter childhood obesity. To narrow the scope, the main emphasis was on increasing fruit and vegetable consumption.

The CDC wanted to try a new problem-solving approach. It tapped IDEO because our human-centered design methodology contrasted with the CDC’s traditional means of gathering and disseminating scientific data. The CDC believed that IDEO’s new perspective and innovative practices would help the adults who were running Project Carrot get inside tween minds — to understand their worlds, needs, and desires — in an inclusive and non-threatening way.

In order to reverse social trends, the CDC recognized two things: First, it needed to move swiftly. Second, it needed to serve not only as a disseminator of information, but also as a leader for change. This was a slightly uncomfortable position for the CDC, but one it needed to assume if it was going to take a leadership role in helping young people avoid…

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Project date: 2009