• The application of quantitative systems science to the examination of complex public health problems, including obesity in particular, holds great promise and offers enormous potential benefits.
The unique perspective that a systems approach brings to the issue of obesity is highlighted at the end of the previous chapters presenting the committee’s recommendations (Chapters 5-9). For example, Chapter 7, on message environments, points out some of the important intrasector and cross-sector insights that are gained by viewing these issues through a systems lens: “On their own, any one of these actions might help accelerate progress in obesity prevention, but together, their effect would be reinforced, amplified, and maximized. A social marketing campaign on its own, without a decrease in young people’s exposure to food and beverage marketing, would be less effective. Likewise, a shift in food and beverage marketing would be more powerful when accompanied by a vigorous social marketing campaign.” Likewise, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Education (SNAP-Ed) would be much more effective if a sustained and targeted social marketing campaign were initiated and there were significant increases in food availability and affordability for SNAP recipients.
This unique perspective also influences the committee’s views on how leadership, prioritization, and assessment should be handled. A theme that recurs throughout this report is that each of the committee’s single recommendations, strategies, and potential actions has the potential to accelerate progress in obesity prevention, but that it is also important to view them as a whole system comprising the five critical areas depicted in Figure 10-1. As illustrated in the figure, this chapter addresses the important issues involved in the implementation of the committee’s recommendations for accelerating progress in obesity prevention, using a simplified systems perspective, by answering three important questions: How should leadership be identified, defined, and exercised in response to the systems-oriented recommendations presented in this report? How can the systems thinking represented in this report guide the way a leader should approach implementation of the recommendations and the associated strategies and potential actions? What are the priorities on which leaders should act within and among the five interacting critical areas?