This section describes the approach used by the committee to formulate its recommendations for accelerating progress in obesity prevention, including the systems perspective that informed its deliberations and the development of a set of guiding principles.
A Systems Perspective
As noted in previous chapters, a systems perspective informed every aspect of the committee’s approach to its task, including the development of its vision; identification of the need to engage individuals, families, communities, and society to catalyze change; integration of knowledge about the current environment; development of guiding principles; review of prior recommendations; formulation of recommendations, strategies, and actions with the greatest potential to accelerate progress in obesity prevention; and identification of indicators of progress. Systems thinking helped the committee identify areas in which change is needed and how actions taken in these areas can work synergistically to make the greatest impact on obesity prevention. Appendix B provides additional detail on the committee’s use of a systems perspective.
As described in Chapter 2, obesity has imposed substantial social, health, and economic burdens on the U.S. population. The epidemic is a startling setback to major improvements in child health in the past century. Obesity has many causes; individual energy imbalance is influenced by environmental, cultural, and societal factors (e.g., food policies, the built environment, cultural norms) that ultimately affect personal decisions about physical activity and food intake. Exposure to these influences, both positive and negative, varies by subpopulation, with resulting disparities in the prevalence of obesity.
An urgent need exists to accelerate progress toward obesity prevention because prevention is a more sustainable population-based solution than treatment. Prior recommendations for obesity prevention have been proposed, but their fidelity and degree of implementation and integration have not been thoroughly evaluated.
Informed by a systems perspective as described above; a vision of what society would look like if obesity prevention were achieved (as detailed in Chapter 1); and an understanding of the complex social, political, and economic environment (as