Progress in Preventing Childhood Obesity: Focus on Communities, Brief Summary, Institute of Medicine Regional Symposium

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The nation faces a growing epidemic of childhood obesity that threatens the immediate health of our children and their prospects of growing up healthy into adulthood. During the past 30 years, obesity in the United States has more than doubled among young children aged 2-5 years and adolescents aged 12-19 years, and it has more than tripled among youth aged 6-11 years. Currently, more than 9 million children 6 years of age and older are considered to be obese. The sequelae of obesity among children and youth are also rapidly increasing, including an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, asthma, and social and psychological consequences including low self-esteem and depression. To develop a prevention-focused action plan to reduce the number of obese children and youth in the United States, the Institute of Medicine organized three regional symposia, and held its second regional symposium in Atlanta, Georgia on October 6-7, 2005. Progress in Preventing Childhood Obesity: Focus on Communities highlights the recurring themes that emerged from the symposium for accelerating change and moving forward with obesity prevention efforts: empower communities and neighborhoods, change the environment, forge strategic partnerships, garner and mobilize political support, educate stakeholders, identify leaders and build on cultural assets, collect and disseminate local data, evaluate programs and interventions, and translate successful interventions to other communities. Approximately 90 individuals active in childhood obesity prevention efforts in the southeastern region of the United States who represented a range of stake holder perspectives and innovative practices in local communities including students, community leaders, physicians, health educators, clergy, teachers, and state and federal government officials were invited to participate in the symposium. The contents of this summary reflect specific examples presented and discussed during the symposium, and unless otherwise noted, the general perspectives of the participants. This summary, along with two other symposia summaries, and a more detailed discussion of insights and regional examples, will be incorporated in the IOM committee's final report on progress in preventing childhood obesity that will be released in the fall of 2006.