Blog | Wednesday, May 9, 2012

QD: News Every Day--Is obesity because of society?

A new forecast projects 42% of Americans will be overweight by 2030, and experts are now doing some blamecasting of their own. It's too easy to eat and drink extra calories, and to not exercise, said public health officials at a three-day conference.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released their figures at an obesity conference, and other organizations presented their reports as well. The study, published by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, is actually a better projection than some previously published ones that estimated half the population would be overweight or obese by 2030.

One of the report's panelists commented to Reuters, "[W]when you see the increase in obesity you ask, what changed? And the answer is, the environment. The average person cannot maintain a healthy weight in this obesity-promoting environment."

After all, research has shown that moms think their chubby toddlers are normal and healthy. A study in the May issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine showed that Nearly 70% of mothers were inaccurate in assessing their toddler's body size. Compared with mothers of healthy-weight toddlers, mothers of overweight toddlers were 87% less likely to be accurate. More than 70% of all mothers and 81.7% of mothers of overweight toddlers were satisfied with their toddler's body size.

The Institute of Medicine issued its ownreport that identified societal changes such as making healthy foods and exercise "easy, routine, and appealing aspects of daily life."

The report focused on five goals: integrating exercise into people's daily lives, making healthy food and beverage options available everywhere, better marketing about nutrition and activity, making schools a gateway to healthy weights, and recruiting employers and health care professionals to support healthy lifestyles.

Specific strategies include requiring at least 60 minutes per day of physical education and activity in schools, setting industry-wide guidelines on which foods and beverages can be marketed to children and how, expanding workplace wellness programs, fully capitalizing physicians to advocate for obesity prevention with patients and in the community, and increasing the availability of lower-calorie, healthier children's meals in restaurants.

The changes would involve fast food restaurants, which would ensure that half their menus comply with federal dietary guidelines for moderately active children and charge little or no more for these options, the report says. But shopping centers, convention centers, sports arenas, and other public venues that make meals and snacks should do so as well.

The food, beverage, restaurant, and media industries should step up their voluntary efforts to develop and implement common nutritional standards for marketing aimed at children and adolescents up to age 17. Government agencies should consider setting mandatory rules if a majority of these industries have not adopted suitable standards within two years, the report said.

Other suggestions included:
--develop a private and public marketing campaign that encourages healthy activities and habits,
--offer tax credits for sidewalks near new housing and for supermarkets in communities without them, and
--give schools the resources and support to implement federal nutrition standards for meals and for products served in vending machines, concession stands, and other venues, as well as make food literacy part of their curricula.