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Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance
Summary of Findings and Conclusions
Childhood obesity is a serious nationwide health problem requiring urgent attention and a population-based prevention approach so that all children may grow up physically and emotionally healthy.
Preventing obesity involves healthful eating behaviors and regular physical activity—with the goal of achieving and maintaining energy balance at a healthy weight.
Individual efforts and societal changes are needed. Multiple sectors and stakeholders must be involved.
likely to change as well; in the long term, we can become a nation where proper nutrition and physical activity that support energy balance at a healthy weight will become the standard.
Recognizing the multifactorial nature of the problem, the committee deliberated on how best to prioritize the next steps for the nation in preventing obesity in children and youth. The traditional method of prioritizing recommendations of this nature would be to base these decisions on the strength of the scientific evidence demonstrating that specific interventions have a direct impact on reducing obesity prevalence and to order the evidence-based approaches based on the balance between potential benefits and associated costs including potential risks. However, a robust evidence base is not yet available. Instead, we are in the midst of compiling that much-needed evidence at the same time that there is an urgent need to respond to this epidemic of childhood obesity. Therefore, the committee used the best scientific evidence available—including studies with obesity as the outcome measure and studies on improving dietary behaviors, increasing physical activity levels, and reducing sedentary behaviors, as well as years of experience and study on what has worked in addressing similar public health challenges—to develop the recommendations presented in this report.
As evidence was limited, yet the health concerns are immediate and warrant preventive action, it is an explicit part of the committee’s recommendations that all the actions and initiatives include evaluation efforts to help build the evidence base that continues to be needed to more effectively fight this epidemic.
From the ten recommendations presented above, the committee has identified a set of immediate steps based on the short-term feasibility of the actions and the need to begin a well-rounded set of changes that recognize the diverse roles of multiple stakeholders (Table ES-1). In discussions and interactions that have already begun and will follow with this report, each