Thursday, July 30, 2009

Weight of the Nation: Obesity Prevention and Control

“Weight of the Nation”, the Centers for Disease Control’s inaugural conference on obesity prevention and control, concluded its three-day line-up of speakers and activities yesterday. The conference, which took place at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC featured prominent health leaders and international public policy makers discussing current and future wellness initiatives on the path to global health.

The conference goals were to:
1. Identify strategies to facilitate obesity prevention on personal, local, and international levels.
2. Discuss economic analysis of obesity prevention and control efforts (for example, costs and benefits within the health care system).
3. Discuss the use of legislation, government regulation, and policies as a way to combat obesity.
4. Explain and evaluate accumulating evidence to promote certain policies and environmental strategies in obesity prevention.

Some of the ideas discussed were large-scale projects such as re-designing the infrastructure of a city to include wider sidewalks, more green space, or pedestrian-friendly routes connecting counties. Other changes suggested, however, are equally significant, but more manageable in a short period of time.

Indiana state health commissioner, Judy Monroe, suggested that school bus drivers could drop children off several minutes from school. Each day, an adult could meet the children and walk them safely to school from a few blocks away. This small change could increase the daily activity level of some youngsters by ten minutes or more. Another small shift takes place in the cafeteria. If candy and junk food prices are increased, kids are more likely to reach for apples or carrot sticks during lunchtime. Some schools have already set up an affordable healthy lunch program that provides fresh fruit and vegetables as well as pizza made with whole wheat crust and organic milk instead of soda.

Although public health officials face many challenges in their attempts to affect change, there are numerous creative ideas that encourage positive behavior modification and realistic lifestyle changes for Americans.

The CDC's inaugural conference didn't have all the answers for obesity prevention and global health management, but it did provide an interactive forum for brainstorming ideas and sharing information. That's a great start!

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