The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced a new $25 million research project aimed at combating childhood obesity among low-income families, the agency reported on Thursday.

The initiative, made possible through funding from the Affordable Care Act, will target children aged 2-12 who are covered by the Children's Health Insurance Program, which provides low-cost health coverage to more than seven million children from working families. Although approximately 17 percent of the country's 12.5 million children and teens are obese, those rates are even higher among children in minority and low-income communities.

Over the last three decades, obesity rates among children and adolescents have nearly tripled, said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden.  Obese children are more likely to have asthma, depression, diabetes, and other serious and costly health problems.  This project will help figure out ways our children can grow up to lead long, healthy and productive lives.

The four-year Childhood Obesity Demonstration Project will use innovative approaches to encourage a healthy diet and active lifestyle, while also identifying effective healthcare and community strategies to support healthier lifestyles, the CDC reports. The program aims to encourage preventative care changes among physicians, as well as encouraging changes in schools, day care centers and community centers such as retails stores and parks that will advocate better living.

Furthermore, the program will employ community health workers to reach out to hard-to-reach demographics -- such as families with limited English proficiency and minority communities -- to educate them about health insurance enrollment opportunities and disease management and prevention.

The project guarantees approximately $6.2 million over four years to three research facilities-- the University of Texas Health Center at Houston, San Diego State University and the Massachusetts State Department of Public Health. In addition, the University of Houston will serve as an evaluation center and will receive about $4.2 million.

Addressing childhood obesity and lifestyle choices has been a major endeavor undertaken by First Lady Michelle Obama since President Barack Obama was inaugurated in 2009. The First Lady launched Let's Move!, an initiative dedicated to solving the childhood obesity epidemic within a generation.