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10 Years After Landmark WHO Report

Posted Sep 07 2008 8:37pm

by Gabrielle Grode

It’s been 10 years since the World Health Organization issued its landmark report, “Obesity: Preventing and Managing the Global Epidemic.” In this call to action, the WHO urged for immediate responses to combat the growing epidemic. Twenty-five leading authorities paid particular attention to prevention strategies that address the many environmental and societal forces which enable unhealthy behaviors among the entire society. Obesity was named as “today’s principal neglected public health problem” and concludes that “public health action is urgently required.”

And now, readers, 10 years have passed and what has been accomplished? Have we made any significant strides to reduce and prevent obesity? How far have we come and how much further must we go? Consider the following:

  • Obesity rates among both children and adults climb steadily in recent decades. However, an article published in a May issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that there were no significant increases in childhood obesity rates between 2003/2004 and 2005/2006 NHANES data. Today, approximately 32% of 2-19 year olds are overweight or obese.
  • The CDC reports that no state has reached the Healthy People 2010 goal of reducing obesity to 15%.
  • The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation commits $500 million over the next 5 years to reverse the epidemic of obesity by 2015.
  • School districts adopt bans on selling soda and other sugar beverages in school vending machines; no federal regulation has been enacted.
  • At a national level, school districts are required to form school wellness councils to receive funding from the National School Lunch Program.
  • The local food and organic food movements explode, with farmers markets, CSAs, community gardens, farm to table endeavors, and organic brands popping up across the nation.
  • Suburbs continue to sprawl away from transportation hubs, schools and city centers. Yet, simultaneously, there is a significant call for a return to communities of scale with sidewalks, front porches, local neighborhood businesses, and movements, like New Urbanism, to match.
  • While the U.S. government continues to shy away from regulating food marketing to children, other countries, such as Norway and Sweden, ban advertising directly to children under the age of 12.
  • A limited number of interventions, like Planet Health, show reductions in childhood obesity rates.
  • Employers, such as Pitney Bowes and IBM, adopt wellness programs which focus on physical activity and health. Meanwhile, in Japan, a new law requires companies and local governments to measure the waistlines of adults. If adults exceed the standard (33.5 inches for men and 35.4 inches for women) and also have another weight-related health concern, they are given dieting advice.
  • New York City enacts menu labeling regulation among fast-food chain restaurants.

Readers, how much progress do you think we’ve made so far? What do you think are the greatest signs of success and the issues that demand the most attention?

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