Preventing Childhood Obesity
Although children's health has made tremendous strides over the past hundred years, the 21st-century began with the new development of an epidemic of childhood obesity. The numbers have increased quickly and significantly, causing policy makers to rank this as one of the most critical public health threats of the 21st-century. The epidemic is affecting boys and girls of all ages across the 50 states, from all socioeconomic strata and ethnic groups- though it disproportionately affects African Americans, Hispanics and American Indians. Among numerous other effects, childhood obesity increases the lifetime risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and increases risk of developing serious psychosocial burdens related to being obese. The economic health care costs related to obesity and overweight in adults alone are estimated at $98 to $129 billion. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) Committee on Prevention of Obesity in Children and Youth was charged with developing a prevention-focused action plan to decrease the prevalence of obesity in children and youth in the United States. The Committee's report "Preventing Childhood Obesity," is the most comprehensive analysis to date on the problems and potential solutions related to the obesity epidemic. The Committee chose a process that incorporated all forms of available evidence-across different categories of information and types of study design. Their report offers a prevention-oriented action plan that identifies both short and long-term interventions, as well as recommendations for the roles and responsibilities of numerous stakeholders in various sectors of society. These solutions take into account the behavioral and cultural factors, social constructs, and other broad environmental factors involved in childhood obesity.