Childhood obesity has increased dramatically over the past several decades. Recent statistics show that nearly one-third of U.S. children and adolescents are overweight or obese. This weight not only puts the physical and emotional health of these young people at risk and severely compromises their future well-being, but it also adds significant costs to the country’s growing health care expenditures.
Increasingly, policy makers are recognizing that environmental factors affect individual behaviors related to food and physical activity. In many communities, for example, fresh produce is not available or affordable, streets and parks are not amenable to exercise, and policies and economic choices make fast food cheaper and more convenient than healthier alternatives. Communities have made efforts to improve these factors in diverse settings and with diverse populations, resulting in many promising approaches. Overall, however, these efforts remain fragmented, and little is known about their effectiveness.
To better understand the successes and challenges of these initiatives, the IOM’s Food and Nutrition Board held two workshops in June 2008 and May 2009. The workshops provided a setting to learn from individuals who are actively engaged in community- and policy-based obesity prevention programs. The 2009 workshop summary Community Perspectives on Obesity Prevention in Children includes the workshops’ presentations and discussions, providing insight into the challenges involved in policy and programmatic interventions as well as approaches to implementation and evaluation that have shown promise.