by Marion Nestle
Sep 3 2009

What’s new in obesity prevention

Reports about what to do about obesity in adults and children are coming out one after another.

The HSC Foundation has produced Fighting Obesity: What Works, What’s Promising? (click on Fighting Obesity Report).  Based on interviews, it reviews model programs that are having some success, such as The Food Trust, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit organization; The Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children (CLOCC); and The Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH) Program.  Its main conclusion: a focus on pregnant women and children will have the biggest payoff.

NIH has New Tools to Promote Healthy Habits, one of which is “We Can!  Ways to Enhance Children’s Activities and Nutrition.”  The online program tells families how to improve food choices, increase physical activity, and reduce screen time.  [Question: do online programs do any good at all?  I'd really like to know.]

Finally (for now), the Institute of Medicine and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation have produced Local Government Action to Prevent Childhood Obesity, with a mind-numbing 58 steps that governments could take to do some good .  They also published a brief summary. Fortunately, the authors select the 12 actions most likely to succeed:

  1. Create incentive programs to attract supermarkets and grocery stores to underserved neighborhoods
  2. Require menu labeling in chain restaurants to provide consumers with calorie information on in-store menus and menu boards
  3. Mandate and implement strong nutrition standards for foods and beverages available in government-run or regulated after-school programs, recreation centers, parks, and child-care facilities, including limiting access to unhealthy foods and beverages
  4. Adopt building codes to require access to, and maintenance of, fresh drinking water fountains (e.g. public restrooms)
  5. Implement a tax strategy to discourage consumption of foods and beverages that have minimal nutritional value, such as sugar sweetened beverages
  6. Develop media campaigns, utilizing multiple channels (print, radio, internet, television, social networking, and other promotional materials) to promote healthy eating (and active living) using consistent messages
  7. Plan, build and maintain a network of sidewalks and street crossings that connects to schools, parks and other destinations and create a safe and comfortable walking environment
  8. Adopt community policing strategies that improve safety and security of streets and park use, especially in higher-crime neighborhoods
  9. Collaborate with schools to implement a Safe Routes to Schools program
  10. Build and maintain parks and playgrounds that are safe and attractive for playing, and in close proximity to residential areas
  11. Collaborate with school districts and other organizations to establish agreements that would allow playing fields, playgrounds, and recreation centers to be used by community residents when schools are closed (joint-use agreements)
  12. Institute regulatory policies mandating minimum play space, physical equipment and duration of play in preschool, afterschool and child-care programs

A 12-step program for preventing childhood obesity!  These are good ideas.  What will it take to get them put into practice?

Comments

  • Janet Camp
  • September 3, 2009
  • 10:37 am

Wonderful steps indeed! Sadly, if publicized, they will be met (from the noise machine) with derision and cried of “nanny state”. They will be as doomed as real health care reform.

  • Cathy Richards
  • September 3, 2009
  • 6:33 pm

I love it! A top 12 list for preventing childhood obesity that never ever once places the onus on the parents or the child, but instead focusses on the built environment. I guess #6 touches on it, but focusses on media, rather than training.

  • DF
  • September 3, 2009
  • 11:19 pm

Maybe the best way to combat obesity would be to label all foodstuffs with the cost of production and/or profit margin.

  • Mom of Two
  • September 4, 2009
  • 8:08 am

Cathy, I don’t object to having the onus placed on me. I certainly believe that I am my kid’s best teacher, and that it is critical that I lead by example.

That said, it is much more difficult than it should be to educate my kids [because they are constantly bombarded with misinformation from 'experts'] and the advertising is relentless. And don’t get me started on the amount of crap that comes into my kids’ classrooms, always by well-meaning parents or teachers…

I realize that it is my responsibility to say no, but should the ice cream truck be allowed to park right outside the school door every day? At what point is it unreasonable to ask for some cooperation in keeping my kids healthy?

[...] de Marion Nestlé, What’s new in obesity prevention, 3 septembre [...]

[...] OBESITY PREVENTION: Twelve recommendations to reduce the incidence of childhood obesity. These are good ideas but what I want to know is, who [...]

  • Cathy Richards
  • September 4, 2009
  • 12:27 pm

Mom of Two: the teacher giving kids junk, the ice cream truck or fast food restaurant right next to a school — those could all be addressed in the Top 12. There are other recommendations (I think 57) and these would include parent education and support. But for the Top 12 to recognize how hard it is for well-intentioned families to eat well, let alone those that have other priorities (or lack of), without a “built environment” support (which includes policies), is a wonderful paradigm shift.

[...] Food Politics: What’s New in Obesity PreventionI like this article for two reasons: A) much of it focuses on heading childhood obesity off at the pass, and B) the title sounds so casual, like it should be sitting on a magazine page next to “Don’t Fall Out of Style: Oprah’s Autumn Colors!” [...]

  • RawlinD
  • September 14, 2009
  • 3:43 pm

Marion:

I would think this whole ‘obesity prevention’ movement would be a ripe field for your type of ‘prove it’ attitude.

Here, we have literally millions upon millions of dollars invested in obesity prevention programs that, according the report you cited, don’t actually do anything to prevent obesity. Their ‘results’ are mostly political posturing. They cannot point to ANY results in preventing obesity. They seem to be only interesting in continuing the programs, based on a lot of hand-waving and magical thinking.

(Please point to ANY data in those reports showing ANY results in preventing or reversing obesity — and not pretend, surrogate markers for political expediency. Do any of these programs work? Are they any better than ‘miracle’ cures for weight loss shown in infomercials? This is a prime opportunity to expose if there is ANY data to show that these high-cost measures actually do anything.

Sort of the same thing you rail against with food manufacturers and others making spurious claims, SHOW ME THE DATA.

I say you should make these ‘programs’ demonstrate that they are in fact, preventing or curbing obesity. Changing habits and attitudes and all sorts of other ‘pretend’ measures don’t count.

They’re doing what the weight-loss hucksters have been hustling for years.

[...] Food Politics: What’s New in Obesity PreventionI like this article for two reasons: A) much of it focuses on heading childhood obesity off at the pass, and B) the title sounds so casual, like it should be sitting on a magazine page next to “Don’t Fall Out of Style: Oprah’s Autumn Colors!” [...]

[...] Food Politics: What’s New in Obesity Prevention I like this article for two reasons: A) much of it focuses on heading childhood obesity off at the pass, and B) the title sounds so casual, like it should be sitting on a magazine page next to “Don’t Fall Out of Style: Oprah’s Autumn Colors!” [...]

[...] Food Politics: What’s New in Obesity Prevention I like this article for two reasons: A) much of it focuses on heading childhood obesity off at the pass, and B) the title sounds so casual, like it should be sitting on a magazine page next to “Don’t Fall Out of Style: Oprah’s Autumn Colors!” [...]

[...] Food Politics: What’s New in Obesity Prevention I like this article for two reasons: A) much of it focuses on heading childhood obesity off at the pass, and B) the title sounds so casual, like it should be sitting on a magazine page next to “Don’t Fall Out of Style: Oprah’s Autumn Colors!” [...]

[...] Food Politics: What’s New in Obesity Prevention I like this article for two reasons: A) much of it focuses on heading childhood obesity off at the pass, and B) the title sounds so casual, like it should be sitting on a magazine page next to “Don’t Fall Out of Style: Oprah’s Autumn Colors!” [...]

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