Childhood Obesity
The government, food industry, media and
communities’ efforts to address the childhood obesity
epidemic fall short of adequately addressing the
problem, according to a new report by the Institute of
Medicine (IOM). Increased funding, proper evaluation
of programs and improved dissemination of
information were just some of the recommendations
offered by the IOM’s Committee on Progress in
Preventing Childhood Obesity.

Between 1963 and 2004, the obesity rate for children ages 6–11 years has nearly
quadrupled (from 4% to 19%) and has tripled for children ages 2–5 years (5% to
14%) and youth ages 12–19 years (5% to 17%). Currently, 33.6% of American
children are obese or at risk of becoming obese with minority children living in
low-income areas at greatest risk. While the severity of the childhood obesity crisis
is generally recognized, the programs in place today to increase physical activity
and healthful eating in children and youth are “fragmented and small-scale.”
Furthermore, there are no standardized monitoring or evaluation methods to
determine if the programs are effective or ways to identify and implement
successful programs on a larger scale.

The “Progress in Preventing Childhood Obesity: How Do We Measure Up?” report
recommends that federal, state and local governments establish a high-level task
force to coordinate public-sector efforts, implement and monitor all childhood
obesity prevention programs and expand promising programs. In addition, funding
for childhood obesity prevention research should be increased.

The food and media industries can also play an important role in supporting
childhood obesity prevention. Food companies should offer healthier and smaller
portions and media companies should share information that promotes healthful
diets and regular physical activity.

Other recommendations by the 13-member panel of public health experts include
requiring daily physical education in schools and physical activity in preschool,
childcare and after-school programs; improving sidewalks and street crossings to
allow children to walk and bicycle to school; providing farmers’ markets and farm
stands in low-income communities to increase the availability of fresh produce;
and establishing policies on the types of foods and beverages that are advertised
and marketed to children age 12 and younger during children’s television
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