Report Brief - Institute of Medicine
Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention: Solving the Weight of the Nation
Two-thirds of adults and almost one-third of children in the United States are overweight or obese, representing young and old, urban and rural, and majority and minority populations. This epidemic of excess weight is associated with major causes of chronic disease, disability, and death. Obesityrelated illness is estimated to carry an annual cost of $190.2 billion.
These staggering human and economic costs, along with the difficulties of treating obesity and the slow progress made in reversing national obesity trends, underscore the urgent need to accelerate progress in obesity prevention. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation asked the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to identify catalysts to speed progress in obesity prevention. The IOM committee appointed to this task presents its findings in its report, Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention: Solving the Weight of the Nation.
Effective Responses to a Complex Health Problem
The committee evaluated hundreds of prior strategies for their promise in accelerating obesity prevention over the next decade. It mapped how the most promising interacted with, reinforced, or slowed each other’s progress. This “systems approach” way of thinking allowed the committee to identify recommendations and understand how they would be important individually and, when implemented collectively, would further strengthen efforts to prevent obesity. The result was the series of goals that follow.
- Make physical activity an integral and routine part of life
- Create food and beverage environments that ensure that healthy food and beverage options are the routine, easy choice
- Transform messages about physical activity and nutrition
- Expand the roles of health care providers, insurers, and employers
- Make schools a national focal point
Implementing the Recommendations
The report stresses that, because obesity is such a complex and stubborn problem, a bold, sustained, and comprehensive approach is needed. Action must occur at all levels—individual, family, community, and the broader society—and ongoing assessment of progress is key as efforts move forward
The report emphasizes the need to identify and engage leaders at all levels and across all sectors of society who can act to prevent obesity, and it challenges everyone to assess their assets and identify contributions they can make to create meaningful societal change and accelerate progress in preventing obesity.
Obesity risks are often disproportionate among minority, low-income, less educated, and rural populations, due to inequitable distribution of health promotion resources and community risk factors that contribute to disparities in obesity prevalence. For example, some communities may have no safe places to walk or play, no shops offering affordable, healthy food, and widespread advertisements for unhealthy food and beverages. Because these inequities often result from policy decisions, change will require targeted efforts to promote and support robust, long-term community engagement and civic participation.