How Is Childhood Obesity Doing? (Part 4)

Kids and Water Play

We’re still in Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and have been looking at the spectrum of news coverage over the past few months, which although it has not exactly inspired roller-coaster emotions, has tended to fluctuate. In the wake of the CDC report, a ton of headlines emerged whose tone ranged from cautiously hopeful to wildly optimistic, headlines such as:

Child obesity down 1 percent in Calif., 13 percent in Miss.
Childhood Obesity Plummets In Boston Region
Looks like the US is winning its war on childhood obesity

And then… “U.S. Fails on Measuring Obesity Prevention.” That opinion, from the Institute of Medicine, is characterized as “unusually blunt” by an uncredited blogger who also quotes the IOM:

The nation still lags behind international efforts in providing the leadership, guidance, support, and necessary infrastructure to support evaluation efforts.

Since we cherish the belief that America is in every respect the world leader, to say the nation “lags behind international efforts” could have probably gotten the IOM investigated if Senator Joseph McCarthy was still hunting for communists in Washington.

Morgan Downey of the STOP Obesity Alliance discusses how most public policies have been aimed at preventing obesity in schoolchildren. If the government is to intervene, school is certainly the most accessible way to influence children, by improving lunches and removing junk food vending machines and adding physical education programs and so forth. Depending on state-level or local decisions, schools might send home “fat letters.”

Downey references a review that was done of studies conducted in low-income and middle-income countries, which found the positive effect of preventive interventions performed by schools to be disappointingly small:

Out of 22 studies, 8 showed reductions in BMI ranging from –0.7 to 0.0. After-school interventions have not shown positive effects on BMI… For the most part, evaluations of the interventions reveal weak or very modest benefits. The actual picture might be even less positive due to the poor quality of research and publication bias. Publication bias refers to the tendency of journals and researchers to not publish studies with negative or inconclusive findings.

And then he goes on to say that all interventions “fail to accommodate the multifactorial aspects of obesity.” For those who are keeping track, the multifactorial aspects now include nearly 100 suggested causes for obesity, which are suspected to work in concert.

In “U.S. Fails on Measuring Obesity Prevention,” the writer capsulizes the broad conclusions reached by the IOM in their report:

1. A gap in knowledge of what works against the obesity interferes with the pressing need to act.
2. Information from current evaluations is inadequate for decision makers.
3. Monitoring systems don’t track progress adequately.
4. Investment in evaluation is too low and sporadic.
5. A systematic science approach is needed.
6. Existing systems lack leadership, coordination, infrastructure, guidance, accountability, and capacity.
7. Communities lack adequate guidance, capacity, data, and resources necessary to assess their needs and their progress.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “U.S. Fails on Measuring Obesity Prevention,”, August 2013
Source: “Time for a Reappraisal of Public Policy Interventions on Obesity,”
Image by Mike Baird.

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Childhood Obesity News | OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say | Dr. Robert A. Pretlow
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