Ethical Concerns Regarding Interventions to Prevent and Control Childhood Obesity

A goal of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic by 2015 by improving access to affordable, healthful foods and safe places for children to walk, bike, and play in communities across the nation, especially those that are most affected by the epidemic and have the fewest resources. With help from its partners in the field, RWJF developed six policy priorities to help maximize its impact.

  1. Ensuring that all foods and beverages served and sold in schools meet or exceed the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
  2. Increasing access to affordable foods through new or improved grocery stores and corner stores and bodegas that sell more healthful foods.
  3. Increasing the time, intensity, and duration of children’s physical activity, during the school day and out-of-school programs.
  4. Increasing children’s physical activity by improving the built environment in communities.
  5. Using pricing strategies—both incentives and disincentives—to promote the purchase of more healthful foods.
  6. Reducing youth exposure to marketing of unhealthful foods through regulation, policy, and effective industry self-regulation.

Author, John Govea, a senior program officer at RWJF who works in the area of childhood obesity, presents this collection of articles that highlight ideas generated and conclusions reached at the Symposium on Ethical Issues in Interventions for Childhood Obesity, sponsored by RWJF and Data for Solutions, Inc. The articles presented in this issue of Preventing Chronic Disease, address a selection of the most important and understudied aspects of childhood obesity interventions—the ethical implications of what we recommend or implement. They examine issues such as the stigma associated with obesity, the rights and responsibilities of parents, the role of advertising and marketing, and consideration for children with special health care needs.

Investigating these issues is essential in our efforts to advance RWJF’s six policy priorities, as well as the work of our partners and others who are engaged in addressing the obesity epidemic.