Current national estimates indicate that one-third of children and adolescents in the United States are overweight and obese. To address the complexity of issues surrounding this topic, the Society of Behavioral Medicine identified childhood obesity as a special focus of its 2007 annual meeting in Washington D.C. Supported through a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the meeting and its activities had a general goal of identifying the causes of obesity from a social and ecological perspective. This paper provides a brief summary of the content of the sessions of the meeting and some of the views expressed by the various speakers. The Society made five recommendations to improve the effectiveness of research and our understanding of obesity:

  1. Make a broader examination of policy, program and practice strategies across social and ecological levels;
  2. Use team approaches that might include political scientists, geographers, food scientists, and physiologists;
  3. Expand methods and metrics to evaluate treatment therapies and prevention strategies;
  4. Carry out integrated research where collaboration and partnerships among scientists are critical; and
  5. Assess strategies that reduce disparities among ethnic minorities and socially-disadvantaged groups.