IOM Provides Strategic Report to Combat Obesity

A new report on obesity provides recommendations that, if implemented correctly, could profoundly impact the health of the nation over the next decade, but only if every American makes it a priority. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation asked the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to identify catalysts to speed progress in obesity prevention.   Obesity is a risk factor for a number of serious health conditions, and according to the report, obesity-related illness is estimated to carry an annual cost of $190.2 billion.  With more than one third of adults in America obese and about 17 percent of children, the health and financial strain on the nation is burdensome.  And according to a new study, by the year 2030, the United States will see an obesity rate of 42 percent.

The IOM committee examined hundreds of prior obesity-preventing strategies and mapped how the most promising interacted with, reinforced, or slowed each other’s progress. This “systems approach” way of thinking allowed the committee to identify recommendations and understand how they would be important individually and further strengthen efforts to prevent obesity, when implemented correctly. From this evaluation, they set the following goals:

  • Make physical activity an integral and routine part of life
  • Create food and beverage environments that ensure that healthy food and beverage options are the routine, easy choice
  • Transform messages about physical activity and nutrition
  • Expand the roles of health care providers, insurers, and employers
  • Make schools a national focal point

In addition, the committee identified related recommendations, strategies, and potential implementation actions organized around these five critical areas (physical activity, food & beverage, message, health care & work, and school). The report says that if these recommendations are implemented fully, physical activity will become an integral and routine part of people’s lives, with more walking-friendly neighborhoods, for example.  Healthy foods will become readily-available and transparent to everyone. The balance of information in the media will shift away from unhealthy foods and sedentary pursuits and focus on healthy foods and active lifestyles. Additionally, health care providers will routinely advise on obesity prevention, with tactics that can be put into action. Employers will also have a part in promoting physical activity and healthy food options for employees, while schools will serve as nutrition and wellness centers, says the report.

The force of each action, compounded by the collective ability to accelerate and strengthen each other’s impact, could tighten the country’s bulging waistline. But, for the strategies to be effective, it is essential for everyone to become involved.

You can read about each area in further detail in the report brief here.

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