Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A new report from the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council outlines strategies that local government officials can use to tackle the childhood obesity epidemic in their communities. They include zoning restrictions on fast-food restaurants near schools and playgrounds, community policing to improve safety around public recreational sites, requirements that publicly run after-school programs limit video game and TV time, and taxes on high-calorie, low-nutrient foods and drinks.

The report highlights several examples of ways that officials have promoted healthier lifestyles in communities ranging from big cities to small towns. It also recommends starting points that could help officials initiate childhood obesity prevention plans tailored to their jurisdictions' resources and needs.

The report specifically cites 10 examples of local efforts to promote healthy eating and physical activity. They range from a comprehensive obesity prevention initiative -- involving walking trails, a new fitness center, and breastfeeding promotion -- to a city law requiring calorie information on restaurant menus, to a fitness index that helps organizations monitor their progress in meeting dietary and fitness goals. The report highlighted efforts in Austin, Texas; Baltimore; New Orleans; New York City; Henderson, Texas; Shelby, Mont.; Somerville, Mass.; San Diego County; King County, Wash.; and the state of Michigan.

The study was guided by a committee of experts chaired by Eduardo J. Sanchez, MD, MPH. Sanchez also chairs Partnership for Prevention's National Commission for Prevention Priorities. A former state health commissioner in Texas, he now is vice president and chief medical officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas.


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