A new report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) says that America’s progress in stopping the ongoing obesity epidemic has been too slow. Additionally, the IOM says, obesity is continuing to erode productivity, causing millions of Americans to suffer from potentially debilitating and deadly chronic illnesses. A comprehensive set of solutions is necessary to to spur across-the-board societal change, they said, identifying strategies to speed up weight-loss success.
The IOM report was released today at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Weight of the Nation” conference. After assessing more than 800 obesity prevention recommendation, the IOM report focuses on five critical goals to prevent obesity:
- Integrating physical activity into people's daily lives
- Making healthy food and beverage options available everywhere
- Transforming marketing and messages about nutrition and activity
- Making schools a gateway to healthy weights
- Galvanizing employers and health care professionals to support healthy lifestyles
These five recommendations can work together, reinforce one another’s impact, and accelerate obesity prevention, the IOM indicated. Additionally, the committee noted specific strategies, including:
- Requiring at least 60 minutes per day of physical education and activity in schools Industry-wide guidelines on which foods and beverages can be marketed to children and how
- Expansion of workplace wellness programs
- Taking full advantage of physicians' roles to advocate for obesity prevention with patients and in the community
- Increasing the availability of lower-calorie, healthier children's meals in restaurants
"As the trends show, people have a very tough time achieving healthy weights when inactive lifestyles are the norm and inexpensive, high-calorie foods and drinks are readily available 24 hours a day," said committee chair Dan Glickman, executive director of congressional programs, Aspen Institute, Washington, D.C., and former secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture, in a release. "Individuals and groups can't solve this complex problem alone, and that's why we recommend changes that can work together at the societal level and reinforce one another's impact to speed our progress."
The IOM proposed specific strategies and actions to support individuals’ and families’ abilities to make healthy choices wherever they might be, including:
- Healthy food and beverage options should be available at competitive prices everywhere that food is offered and an effort should be made to reduce unhealthy products.
- Fast-food and chain restaurants could revise their recipes and menus to ensure that at least half of their children's meals comply with federal dietary guidelines for moderately active children and charge little or no more for these options.
- Shopping centers, convention centers, sports arenas, and other public venues that make meals and snacks available should offer a full variety of foods, including those recommended by the dietary guidelines.
"Obesity is both an individual and societal concern, and it will take action from all of us — individuals, communities, and the nation as a whole — to achieve a healthier society," said IOM President Harvey V. Fineberg.
More information about the IOM report is available online.
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