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Obesity is blind to age, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, costs ~$190 billion annually, and lurks as the driving force behind myriad chronic diseases and devastating disability. With two-thirds of U.S. adults and almost one-third of U.S. children overweight or obese, there is no debating that America has a serious problem in this regard. Although some progress has been made over the past few decades in preventing and treating obesity, rates continue to increase. In response, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently teamed up with the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to identify catalysts that might speed progress in obesity prevention.
The Committee on Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention, chaired by Daniel Glickman (executive director of congressional programs at the Aspen Institute and senior fellow at The Bipartisan Policy Center) was charged by the IOM with developing a set of recommendations for accelerating progress toward obesity prevention over the next decade and proposing potential measures of progress toward this goal. After identifying nearly 800 previously published recommendations and associated strategies and actions related to obesity prevention, the committee filtered out those that could work together most effectively, reinforce one another’s impact, and be used to achieve the goal of nation-wide obesity reduction. The committee then used a systems approach to develop 5 goals encompassing 5 “environments” needing immediate public action. Details concerning these goals, the environments, and the committee's associated recommendations and strategies are available in the committee's final report, Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention: Solving the Weight of the Nation (The National Academies Press, 2012).
The committee’s goals are summarized below. It is noteworthy that, although they are presented individually and in a linear fashion, the committee suggested that the goals be thought of as unfolding simultaneously, so that they can interactively influence each others’ success. In this way, it is hoped that these initiatives will work synergistically, accelerating obesity reduction at an even more rapid pace than would be expected if each goal were tackled in sequential order.
Although this report provides an exhaustive discussion concerning strategies, possible actions for implementation, and indicators of success for accelerating obesity prevention, it is merely one component of a much broader, more extensive network of related resources. These include an unprecedented, 4-part documentary entitled The Weight of the Nation, a joint project of Home Box Office (HBO), the IOM, the CDC, the NIH, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, and Kaiser Permanente. This made-for-television miniseries (a great resource for the classroom and other educational venues) features case studies and myriad interviews with leading obesity experts as well as individuals and their families struggling with obesity. The CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity also sponsored the Weight of the Nation 2012 Conference on May 7–9, 2012 in the nation’s capital.
As stated by IOM President Harvey V. Fineberg, “Obesity is both an individual and societal concern, and it will take action from all of us—individuals, communities, and the nation as a whole—to achieve a healthier society.” This report and its allied resources represent a multifaceted blueprint by which we might move collectively toward this goal.
Free copies of this report (and information about ordering a paperback version) are available at http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2012/Accelerating-Progress-in-Obesity-Prevention.aspx.
The 4 films associated with this publication (broadcast May 14–15, 2012 on HBO) can be viewed free of charge at http://theweightofthenation.hbo.com/.
To learn more about the Weight of the Nation 2012 Conference, which took place on May 7–9, 2012 in Washington, DC, go to http://www.weightofthenation.org/.