In the United States, 16.3 percent of children and adolescents between the ages of two and 19 are obese. The prevalence of obesity is so high that it may reduce the life expectancy of today’s generation of children and diminish the overall quality of their lives. While parents and other adult caregivers play a fundamental role in teaching children about healthy behaviors, those positive efforts can be undermined by local environments that are poorly suited to supporting healthy behaviors—and may even promote unhealthy behaviors. Local governments can play a crucial role in creating environments that make it easier for children to eat healthy diets and move more.
The Institute of Medicine’s Committee on Childhood Obesity Prevention Actions for Local Governments was convened to identify promising actions that local governments can take to curb obesity among children. The committee sought action steps that are within the jurisdiction of local governments; likely to directly affect children; based on the experience of local governments or sources that work with local governments; take place outside of the school day; and have the potential to promote healthy eating and adequate physical activity. The 2009 report Local Government Actions to Prevent Childhood Obesity presents the committee’s menu of recommended action steps for local government officials to consider in their efforts to prevent childhood obesity in their community.