by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Obesity-policy

Nov 8 2019

Weekend reading: Let’s take real action on childhood obesity

On World Obesity Day, I posted links to three recent reports.

An editorial in The Lancet made me realize that I had not read this one nearly carefully enough.  It deserves careful reading.

It comes from Sallie Davies, who just stepped down as Britain’s Chief Medical Officer.  In another Lancet piece, she and her colleagues insist that children have a right to live in a healthy environment:

Today, government legislation is necessary not simply because we have an obligation to protect vulnerable children, but because children have rights. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), the most widely ratified international human rights treaty, sets out children’s rights to protection, education, health and health care, shelter, and good nutrition…a child rights approach requires us to recognise childhood obesity as the responsibility of the state and as an issue that must be addressed across society…It is time to address childhood obesity as a rights issue.

In her report, she insists that government should enact legislation to ensure a healthy food environment; Annex A lists recommendations:

  • Increase taxes on sugary drinks
  • Require product reformulation to reduce sugar and calories
  • Tax unhealthy foods
  • Label calories
  • Provide free drinking water
  • Remove tax exemptions for advertising
  • Phase out marketing of unhealthy products
  • Ban eating and drinking on public transport
  • Only permit healthy options at sports facilities
  • Promote smaller portion sizes

Her report also suggests ways to promote physical activity.

Worth a try?  I think so.

Oct 15 2019

World Obesity: Three More Reports

Friday October 11 was World Obesity Day, which explains why so many groups are issuing reports on obesity prevalence, risks, costs, and prevention strategies.

I wrote about the one from the Trust for America’s Health, The State of Obesity, a few weeks ago.

Here are three more, just in.

1.  The Heavy Burden of Obesity: The Economics of Prevention.

This one was produced by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).  It finds: “Almost one in four people in OECD countries is currently obese. This epidemic has far-reaching consequences for individuals, society and the economy. Using microsimulation modelling, this book analyses the burden of obesity and overweight in 52 countries (including OECD, European Union and G20 countries), showing how overweight reduces life expectancy, increases healthcare costs, decreases workers’ productivity and lowers GDP.”

2.  Time to Solve Childhood Obesity   This is “An Independent Report by the Chief Medical Officer, 2019, Professor Dame Sally Davies in the U.K.  The cover deals with both cause and effect:

3.  State of Childhood Obesity: Helping All Children Grow Up Healthy.  The Robert Wood Johnson produced this one.

Its key findings:

  • Obesity rates for youth ages 10 to 17 did not change much from 2016 (15%-16%).
  • Racial and ethnic disparities persist as do disparities by income.
  • Mississippi had the highest overall youth obesity rate (25.4%); Utah had the lowest (8.7%).

Comment:  Obesity is a global problem, not just one for the U.S.  Plenty of policies exist that could help make healthier food choices easier and less expensive.  But as the Lancet Global Syndemic report so clearly explained, doing something about obesity is hampered by weak (corporate-captured) government, food industry opposition, and weak civil society.  The first two are difficult to do anything about without attention to the third.  The clear need: strengthen civil society.  Let’s get to work on that.

Sep 20 2019

Weekend reading: the state of obesity

Trust for America’s Health has just published its annual report on obesity, state by state.

As the home page puts it, “U.S. Obesity Rates Reach Historic Highs – Racial, Ethnic, Gender and Geographic Discrepancies Continue to Persist.”

The press release has an even more pointed headline: “U.S. Obesity Rates at Historic Highs – Nine States Reach Adult Obesity Rates of 35 Percent or More.”

The report highlights that obesity levels are closely tied to social and economic conditions and that individuals with lower incomes are more at risk. People of color, who are more likely to live in neighborhoods with few options for healthy foods and physical activity, and, are the target of widespread marketing of unhealthy foods, are at elevated risk.

What to do?

The report calls for sugary drink taxes, expanded SNAP and WIC Nutrition support programs and a built environment that encourages physical activity.

Buried in the report are suggestions for curbing food-industry marketing and other efforts to undermine public health initiatives.

  • Keep industry out of dietary guidelines.
  • Consider regulating food-industry marketing.
  • Stop industry from preempting state public health laws.
  • Reduce unhealthy food marketing to children.

Lots of good stuff here and well worth a read.

Jan 14 2019

Last chance to comment on 2030 food and nutrition objectives

The endlessly repeating process of defining health goals for the next ten years continues and the Department of Health and Human Services is now (or will be when the shutdown ends) collecting comments on draft objectives.

You can see the list of categories here.

That site also has links to the history of the objectives (which dates to 1979) and how the whole process works.

The point of the objectives is to set highly specific, measurable goals for health improvement, so that progress toward attaining the goals (or the lack thereof) can be tracked.

Here, for example, are the first two in the Nutrition section:

  • NWS-2030-01: Reduce household food insecurity and in doing so reduce hunger
  • NWS-2030-02: Reduce the proportion of adults who have obesity

The problem: the process does not define how these goals are to be accomplished or who is responsible for accomplishing them.

But the scorekeeping is useful and the deadline for weighing on on the proposed objectives is January 17.

Here’s your chance!

Dec 7 2018

Weekend reading: the 2018 Global Nutrition Report

If you want an overview of the current status of nutrition problems in the world, what is being done about them, and what needs to be done about them, this report is required reading (to get to the download button for the entire report, scroll to the end of the page).

The report is chock full of useful facts, figures, case studies, and recommendations.  A massive undertaking, it

was produced by the Independent Expert Group of the Global Nutrition Report, supported by the Global Nutrition Report Stakeholder Group and the Secretariat at Development Initiatives. The writing was led by the co-chairs Jessica Fanzo and Corinna Hawkes, supported by group members and supplemented by additional analysts and contributors.

For a quick overview, go right to the slide deck and then to the graphics in the executive summary.

The report deals both with problems of malnutrition (undernutrition) and obesity (overnutrition), especially in children.

It also deals with adult obesity:

It identifies measurable nutrition indicators that can be used to track progress:

It recommends actions to reduce the prevalence of malnutrition and obesity.

What stands in the way of implementing these steps?  Political will, alas.

These reports have come out annually since 2014.  Let’s hope this one gets the attention it deserves.

Mar 12 2018

The link between obesity and food systems: World Bank

I’m late in seeing this but the World Bank published this report linking food systems to obesity last year.

It’s got lots of charts and tables and ends with actions that can be taken in food production systems to improve food quality.  It’s wonky, but useful.

Nov 17 2017

Weekend perusals: Food system policy databases

Policy wonks, students, advocates:  If you are looking for data on what countries are doing to promote healthier people and food systems, check out these resources:

Advocates: these are great sources of ideas.

Oct 27 2016

Resources for food advocates

Some new resources for food system advocates have just come my way.  Use and enjoy!

  • Food Tank and the James Beard Foundation have issued their third annual Good Food Guide, a searchable guide to 1,000 food nonprofit advocacy organizations.  You can download the guide here.
  • Healthy Food America offers a Sugar Overload Calculator.  This is a mini-game that kids (or adults) can play to guess the sugars in commonly consumed foods.  Most will surprise.  Some will be a big surprise.
  • Healthy Food America also has Maps of the Movement, illustrating where soda tax initiatives are underway in the United States.   Can’t wait to see how they do on November 8.
  • The World Cancer Research Fund International’s NOURISHING framework is a terrific introduction to policy approaches to promoting healthy diets and reducing obesity.
  • The Fund also has a useful graphic about the importance of policy approaches to obesity.  I ran across it on Twitter: 

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