The Institute of Medicine announced the publication of Alliances for Obesity Prevention on May 11, 2012. This document represents a strategic road map for organizations to pursue and become major players in solving the complex problem of childhood obesity. The future of America depends on placement of strategies to meet this harrowing problem of childhood obesity that has reached epidemic proportions. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 17 percent or 12.5 million children and adolescents fall under the definition of obese. Since 1980, obesity in this age group tripled. The military reports 75 percent of recruits fail to meet the requirements for military duty. This generation of children will be the first with a lower life expectancy then their parents.
Institute of Medicine Working Group
This report summarizes the Institute of Medicine workshop that brought together an unlikely array of representatives such as academia, agriculture, animal welfare, banks, federal and local health authorities, food and nutrition, food retailers, foundations, gardening groups, environmental health, media, military and transportation. The workshop took a difficult concept and brought together this dissimilar group of people to assess the problem with a fresh approach.
Motivation of Children
The diverse groups discussed innovative ways to address childhood obesity from a "stealth" intervention point of view. Stealth did not mean hidden or covert, but instead referred to an intervention that increases physical activity or improves diet from a different aspect of motivation. Involvement of young girls in ethnic dance that concentrates on music, cultural heritage and dancing increases physical activity, but physical activity never enters the equation even though the behavior produces an increase in physical activity. The report outlines many such examples that arose during the workshop.
Social and Ideological Movements
Thomas Robinson from Stanford University School of Medicine in the Summary suggested the need to produce effects of greater magnitude than with current stealth-like interventions. Robinson described social and ideological movements as motivators to cause dramatic and sustained changes in conduct. The classic example is religious movements that maintain behavior despite social norms. Other movements with a potential to effect change in obesity in the U.S. include:
*environmental sustainability/climate change
*food justice/urban agriculture
*community safety, beautification, and traffic reduction
*human rights/social justice
*violence and crime prevention
The final subject of the workshop discussed the details of bringing together unexpected allies for alliances to tackle the problem of childhood obesity. Miriam Rollin, National Director of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, spoke about bringing together diverse groups to work together to achieve the ultimate reduction in obesity using novel cross-sector alliances. She described law enforcement involvement with Head Start and after-school program as an example of a cross-sector alliance.