in physical activity and eating behaviors that allow them to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Successful obesity prevention thus involves reducing negative and increasing positive influences on a societal level. There also are genetically or biologically mediated influences on obesity in individuals. Taking a population approach to obesity prevention is not to deny the importance of these genetic or biological factors, but to recognize the difficulty of maintaining energy balance when sedentary lives are the norm and high-calorie foods are ubiquitous.
Tremendous strides have been made in addressing the epidemic over the past decade, measured by the sheer amount of attention to the problem, and by the number and coherence of efforts to address the problem and bolster the scientific underpinnings and policy basis for taking action. Evidence of stabilization in obesity prevalence in at least some demographic groups suggests that these deliberate initiatives to address the problem are on track, perhaps in concert with other, spontaneous countering forces. Given the scope and scale of what is needed and the inevitability of a time lag before true progress can be estimated, however, the developments to date create a unique opportunity to restate goals and refine targets and approaches in order to accelerate progress.
Broad positive societal changes that support and sustain individual and family behaviors will need to affect activity and eating environments for all ages. Prevention is critical to decreasing the prevalence of overweight and obesity among children, who are the focus of much of the prevention discussion. But obesity prevention in adults also is crucial to obesity prevention in children because adults are their role models, caregivers, and advocates. Moreover, prevention efforts can help reduce the gradual increase in weight that often occurs in adulthood and support the reduction of further excess weight gain among adults who are already overweight or obese.
In responding to its charge, the committee’s main goal was to provide direction on what recommendations, strategies, and actions should be implemented in the short term to accelerate progress in obesity prevention over the next 10 years. The committee identified close to 800 previously published recommendations and associated strategies and actions related to obesity prevention and assessed the potential of each to help achieve this goal. To guide this assessment, the committee formulated a set of principles, summarized in Box S-1. The committee identified recommendations and associated strategies and actions with the broadest reach and the greatest potential to impact the development of obesity and prioritized