Considerations for an Obesity Policy Research Agenda

This article is a call to action regarding obesity policy research. As the health and economic impacts of rising obesity levels are increasingly evident, the authors argue that focused, prioritized research is urgent. The positive experience of tobacco control and other public health initiatives demonstrate that public policy may be a powerful tool to effect systemic change and, eventually, individual behavior change. The National Cancer Institute convened a meeting to discuss priorities for obesity policy research in June 2007, which included 27 participants from a variety of fields and represented a cadre of organizations. Issues discussed included defining obesity policy research, examining challenges and partners in formulating and implementing an obesity policy research agenda, and identifying research priorities and criteria.

The following important obesity policy research themes emerged from the meeting:

  • Recognizing obesity policy research is in the early developmental stages;
  • Utilizing grass-roots or so-called natural experiments that may affect obesity trends;
  • Researching beyond individual-level behavior change; and
  • Increasing economic research across obesity-related policy areas

The next step is evaluating new and existing polices and their effects to build the evidence-base for obesity policy.