Strategies to Prevent Childhood Obesity: IOM report identifies 58 promising actions for local governments to consider taking.


Publication Date: September 2009

Publisher: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Institute of Medicine

Author(s): Institute of Medicine

Research Area: Health

Type: Report


Recognizing that local government officials are eager to address the childhood obesity epidemic, The Institute of Medicine (IOM) produced Local Government Action to Prevent Childhood Obesity, a report that serves as a practical guide for government officials at the city, town, township or county level who want to take action to address healthy eating and active living.

This report builds on two previous IOM Reports focused on childhood obesity prevention. Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance offered a prevention-oriented action plan that identified both short and long-term interventions, as well as recommendations for the roles and responsibilities of numerous stakeholders in various sectors of society. Progress in Preventing Childhood Obesity: How Do We Measure Up? assessed progress in childhood obesity prevention actions across a variety of sectors.

This report recommends 58 action steps organized under 15 broad strategies. The IOM Committee also highlighted 12 of the most promising strategies across the report with the greatest potential to make a difference based on available research as described below:

Healthy Eating:

* Create incentive programs to attract supermarkets and grocery stores to underserved neighborhoods;
* Require menu labeling in chain restaurants to provide consumers with calorie information on in-store menus and menu boards;
* Mandate and implement strong nutrition standards for foods and beverages available in government-run or regulated after-school programs, recreation centers, parks, and child-care facilities, including limiting access to unhealthy foods and beverages;
* Adopt building codes to require access to, and maintenance of, fresh drinking water fountains (e.g. public restrooms).
* Implement a tax strategy to discourage consumption of foods and beverages that have minimal nutritional value, such as sugar sweetened beverages.
* Develop media campaigns, utilizing multiple channels (print, radio, internet, television, social networking, and other promotional materials) to promote healthy eating (and active living) using consistent messages.

Physical Activity Promising Strategies:

* Plan, build and maintain a network of sidewalks and street crossings that connects to schools, parks and other destinations and create a safe and comfortable walking environment;
* Adopt community policing strategies that improve safety and security of streets and park use, especially in higher-crime neighborhoods;
* Collaborate with schools to implement a Safe Routes to Schools program;
* Build and maintain parks and playgrounds that are safe and attractive for playing, and in close proximity to residential areas;
* Collaborate with school districts and other organizations to establish agreements that would allow playing fields, playgrounds, and recreation centers to be used by community residents when schools are closed (joint-use agreements); and
* Institute regulatory policies mandating minimum play space, physical equipment and duration of play in preschool, afterschool and child-care programs.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided grant support to the IOM Committee on Childhood Obesity Prevention Actions for Local Governments which produced the report.