Federal Coordination Needed for Obesity Efforts
Awareness about increasing rates of childhood obesity is growing, but there has been no comprehensive effort to address the problem, according to an Institute of Medicine report released Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reports. The report is a follow-up to a 2004 IOM report that called for government, industry, schools, parents and other groups to launch a collaborative effort to reduce childhood obesity.
According to the new report, several organizations have implemented programs to encourage healthful habits and increase awareness of childhood obesity, but the efforts are "fragmented and small-scale." Like the 2004 report, the new report calls for the HHS secretary to create a task force comprising high-level officials from HHS, USDA and other agencies that would coordinate national anti-obesity efforts (McKay, Wall Street Journal, 9/14).
The report finds that obesity among U.S. children and adolescents has increased from 16% to 17.1% over the past two years. At the current rate, 20% of children and adolescents would be obese by 2010, according to the report (Dart, Cox/Raleigh News & Observer, 9/14).
The report also draws attention to the federal government's VERB campaign, which urged children to choose a favorite exercise and participate in physical activities (Neergaard, AP/Detroit Free Press, 9/14). The program was found to spur a 34% increase in weekly exercise among preteens it reached, but the campaign will end this month because federal funding was not renewed, the Journal reports (Wall Street Journal, 9/14).
The report states, "The termination of an adequately funded, well-designed and effective program to increase physical activity and combat childhood obesity calls into question the commitment to obesity prevention within government" (Cox/Raleigh News & Observer, 9/14).
The report says existing small-scale anti-obesity programs should be evaluated and effective programs should be implemented on a larger scale (Cox/Raleigh News & Observer, 9/14). Effective programs, including the VERB campaign, should receive increased funding, the report states (Wall Street Journal, 9/14).
The report says widespread cultural change is needed across all aspects of society, including industry, family and local agencies. In addition, efforts to involve the private sector in anti-obesity efforts should be expanded to include the entertainment industry, not just the food industry, the report recommends.
The home environment is also important, and parents should provide children with healthy foods in reasonable portions, the report says (Cox/Raleigh News & Observer, 9/14). The report also recommends more physical activity in schools (Wall Street Journal, 9/14).
NBC's "Nightly News" on Wednesday reported on the IOM report and efforts in U.S. schools to fight childhood obesity with increased physical education and improved nutrition (Shamlian, "Nightly News," NBC, 9/13).
The complete transcript of the segment is available online. The complete segment is available online in Windows Media.