Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention: Solving the Weight of the Nation
Two-thirds of adults and almost one-third of children in the United States
are overweight or obese, representing young and old, urban and rural, and
majority and minority populations. This epidemic of excess weight is associated
with major causes of chronic disease, disability, and death. Obesityrelated
illness is estimated to carry an annual cost of $190.2 billion.
These staggering human and economic costs, along with the difficulties
of treating obesity and the slow progress made in reversing national obesity
trends, underscore the urgent need to accelerate progress in obesity prevention.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation asked the Institute of Medicine
(IOM) to identify catalysts to speed progress in obesity prevention. The IOM
committee appointed to this task presents its findings in its report, Accelerating
Progress in Obesity Prevention: Solving the Weight of the Nation.
Effective Responses to a Complex Health Problem
The committee evaluated hundreds of prior strategies for their promise in
accelerating obesity prevention over the next decade. It mapped how the most
promising interacted with, reinforced, or slowed each other’s progress. This
“systems approach” way of thinking allowed the committee to identify recommendations
and understand how they would be important individually and,
when implemented collectively, would further strengthen efforts to prevent
obesity. The result was the series of goals that follow.
- Make physical activity an integral and routine part of life
- Create food and beverage environments that ensure that healthy food and
beverage options are the routine, easy choice
- Transform messages about physical activity
- Expand the roles of health care providers,
insurers, and employers
- Make schools a national focal point
In addition, the committee identified related
recommendations, strategies, and potential implementation
actions organized around five critical
environments—physical activity, food and beverage,
message, health care and work, and school—
that urgently need reform in order to accelerate
progress (see Detailed Information).
Implementing the Recommendations
The report stresses that, because obesity is such a
complex and stubborn problem, a bold, sustained,
and comprehensive approach is needed. Action
must occur at all levels—individual, family, community,
and the broader society—and ongoing
assessment of progress is key as efforts move forward
The report emphasizes the need to identify
and engage leaders at all levels and across all sectors
of society who can act to prevent obesity, and
it challenges everyone to assess their assets and
identify contributions they can make to create
meaningful societal change and accelerate progress
in preventing obesity.
Obesity risks are often disproportionate
among minority, low-income, less educated, and
rural populations, due to inequitable distribution
of health promotion resources and community
risk factors that contribute to disparities in obesity
prevalence. For example, some communities
may have no safe places to walk or play, no shops
offering affordable, healthy food, and widespread
advertisements for unhealthy food and beverages.
Because these inequities often result from policy
decisions, change will require targeted efforts to
promote and support robust, long-term community
engagement and civic participation.