Legal Strategies in Childhood Obesity Prevention - Workshop Summary


Note: Proceedings contain the opinion of the presenters, but do NOT reflect the conclusions of the Health and Medicine Division or the National Academies. Learn more about the differences between Reports and Proceedings.

When public health campaigns to buckle up or quit smoking were unsuccessful, legal strategies–such as fines for not wearing a seatbelt and restrictions on where smoking could occur–were used to reduce the number of health issues, injuries, and deaths caused by these behaviors. Childhood obesity is another health concern that remains a substantial problem in the United States.  Almost one-third of children over two years of age are obese or overweight. Obese children are at a greater risk to develop cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or other health problems as adults. Could legal restrictions and regulations also help combat childhood obesity?

The IOM held a workshop October 21, 2010, to bring together stakeholders to discuss the current legal strategies aimed at combating childhood obesity at the national, state, and local levels. Public health policy experts discussed other health initiatives that used legal strategies to bring about change as well as the challenges in implementing these changes.  In addition, speakers explored ways that existing and future legal strategies could be coordinated and information be shared, as well as when legal strategies are useful. This document summarizes the workshop.