Childhood Obesity Prevention in Texas

Workshop Summary

The present report summarizes the information gathered at a workshop held February 5–6, 2009 by the Standing Committee on Childhood Obesity Prevention, run by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), in Austin, Texas. Texas was chosen as a case study because of its childhood obesity statistics, demographics, size, and efforts to prevent and reduce obesity. At this workshop, committee members met with Texas lawmakers, public officials, and community leaders to exchange ideas and to view first-hand strategies that are being implemented effectively at the state and local levels to prevent and reverse childhood obesity.

The focus on obesity efforts in Texas is particularly appropriate given that state’s sobering statistics. Texas is home to three of the five cities with the highest obesity rates in the nation. In 2007, two-thirds of Texas adults and one-third of Texas high school students were either overweight or obese. Texas leaders at the workshop expressed the strong belief that the state’s economic vitality and security depend on the health of its population. Accordingly, the state is no longer simply describing the personal, community, and financial costs of its obesity crisis; it is taking proactive steps to address the problem through strategic initiatives. An overarching strategy is to address obesity by targeting the state’s youth, in whom it may be possible to instill healthy behaviors and lifestyles to last a lifetime. A guiding principle of these efforts is that they should be evidence based, community specific, sustainable, cost-effective, and supported by effective partnerships. Moreover, the goal is for the responsibility to be broadly shared by individuals, families, communities, and the public and private sectors.

A number of themes emerged from the workshop. These include:

  • Garnering Support for Childhood Obesity Initiatives
  • Modeling Healthy Behaviors Throughout the Community
  • Leveraging the Power of Partnerships
  • Implementing Comprehensive Approaches
  • Using Social Marketing
  • Identifying a Champion
  • Recognizing the Power of Community Data
  • Implementing Federal Policy Change
  • Securing Funding