The Institute of Medicine (IOM) held a public session, “Evaluating Progress of Obesity Prevention Efforts: What Does the Field Need to Know?,” on Friday, October 12, 2012 in Washington, D.C. Its purpose was to allow the IOM’s Committee on Evaluating Progress of Obesity Prevention Efforts (and audience members like me) to gain a mutual understanding and ability to recognize what it means to use evaluation information of obesity prevention efforts. Key stakeholders from federal agencies, funders, organizations, businesses, the education system, and policy makers offered a variety of perspectives from past and future work. I’ve outlined some of the main challenges and opportunities in the obesity prevention landscape that were discussed, and included some outstanding questions that their insights presented based on the challenges they’ve encountered.
Corrine Graffunder, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Challenge: How do you provide federal senior-level officials with the appropriate tools for decision-making?
One major consideration that needs to be taken into account at a federal level is how to make the right recommendations in the right context. All of the institutes have a very individual, programmatic, traditional view of health. Senior members of the department need to have a better understanding of policies and where programs need to go.
The research emphasizes structural implications and how that translates to efforts that aim to combat obesity. How do those implications bring value to the private sector, and how does that look in the federal purview?
Opportunity: There needs to be translational support, “off the shelf” information to distill to senior level decision-makers.
Question: What are other ways to get the right message to the right people?
David Fukuzawa, The Kresge Foundation
Challenge: Research at a community level is critical, our society cannot wait on food access and the built environment because there is no systematic way to evaluate. All problems related to obesity are linked to an inequitable environment, such as the food deserts that exist in low income areas. A policy change is necessary to have a direct impact on food consumption.
Opportunity: Organizations such as Robert Wood Johnson Foundation have programs that are specifically aimed at (and funded toward) combating childhood obesity. Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is helping nearly 50 communities across the country reshape their environments to support healthy living and prevent childhood obesity. This series of videos documents the work done in three Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities — Central Valley, Calif.; Chicago, Ill.; and Louisville, Ky.
Question: What are the other influencers that have an impact on obesity that are hidden in the space?
LuAnn Heinen, National Business Group on Health
Challenge: We spend almost all of our time either sitting in front of a computer or a television. Researchers are beginning to suspect that even if you engage in regular exercise daily, it may not be enough to counteract the effects of too much sitting during the rest of the day. Sitting All Day: Worse For You Than You Might Think
Opportunity: By making health social in the workplace – such as creating group programs where competitions are introduced and there is a challenge around a desired behavior – employers can leverage these opportunities to increase participation and be more physically active during the weekday.
Question: Would you feel motivated to exercise more if your cube neighbor challenged you to use the stairs every morning?