America's "Official" Obesity Solution

uncle sam obesity America's "Official" Obesity Solution

According to Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the US medical system spends around twice as much treating obesity related illnesses than it does on cancer.

Obesity Related Illnesses: $147 billion

Cancer (all types): $93 billion

And how, you may ask, is that $147 billion being spent?

  • Prevention…….Nope
  • Drugs & Surgery…….Yep

But, not anymore.

A few years back, the CDC initiated the Common Community Measures for Obesity Prevention Project (aka the Measures Project).

The goal of the Measures Project was to identify and recommend a set of obesity prevention strategies and corresponding suggested measurements that local governments and communities can use to plan, implement, and monitor initiatives to prevent obesity.

The Measures Project process was guided by expert opinion and included a systematic review of the published scientific literature, resulting in the adoption of 24 recommended environmental and policy level strategies to prevent obesity.

This report presents the first set of comprehensive recommendations published by CDC to promote healthy eating and active living and reduce the prevalence of obesity in the United States. This report describes each of the recommended strategies, summarizes available evidence regarding their effectiveness, and presents a suggested measurement for each strategy that communities can use to assess implementation and track progress over time.

Translation: This is the first big gov’t approach to obesity prevention through lifestyle modification.

And here are the 24 strategies.

Strategies to Promote the Availability of Affordable Healthy Food and Beverages

Strategy 1

Communities should increase availability of healthier food and beverage choices in public service venues.

Suggested measurement
A policy exists to apply nutrition standards that are consistent with the dietary guidelines for Americans to all food sold (e.g., meal menus and vending machines) within local government facilities in a local jurisdiction or on public school campuses during the school day within the largest school district in a local jurisdiction.

Translation: Stop selling junk food in schools & public facilities

Health Habits Comment: What constitutes healthy food? Who determines what is healthy food? CDC? USDA?

food pyramid America's "Official" Obesity Solution
Strategy 2

Communities should improve availability of affordable healthier food and beverage choices in public service venues.

Suggested measurement
A policy exists to affect the cost of healthier foods and beverages (as defined by the Institute of Medicine [IOM])  relative to the cost of less healthy foods and beverages sold within local government facilities in a local jurisdiction or on public school campuses during the school day within the largest school district in a local jurisdiction.

Translation: Healthy food subsidies

Health Habits Comment: What is healthy food?…again

Strategy 3

Communities should improve geographic availability of supermarkets in underserved areas.

Suggested measurement
The number of full-service grocery stores and supermarkets per 10,000 residents located within the three largest underserved census tracts within a local jurisdiction.

Translation: City planning, taxation & bylaws (ex. LA has banned new fast food restaurants in low income neighborhoods)

Strategy 4

Communities should provide incentives to food retailers to locate in and/or offer healthier food and beverage choices in underserved areas.

Suggested measurement
Local government offers at least one incentive to new and/or existing food retailers to offer healthier food and beverage choices in underserved areas.

Translation: Taxation & bylaws

Health Habits Comment: How do you pay for healthy incentives? Tax McDonalds?

Strategy 5

Communities should improve availability of mechanisms for purchasing foods from farms.

Suggested measurement
The total annual number of farmer-days at farmers’ markets per 10,000 residents within a local jurisdiction.

farmers market America's "Official" Obesity Solution

Strategy 6
Communities should provide incentives for the production, distribution, and procurement of foods from local farms.

Suggested measurement
Local government has a policy that encourages the production, distribution, or procurement of food from local farms in the local jurisdiction.

Translation: Locavores are happy

Strategies to Support Healthy Food and Beverage Choices

Strategy 7
Communities should restrict availability of less healthy foods and beverages in public service venues.

Suggested measurement
A policy exists that prohibits the sale of less healthy foods and beverages (as defined by IOM [Institute of Medicine]) within local government facilities in a local jurisdiction or on public school campuses during the school day within the largest school district in a local jurisdiction.

Translation: Junk food bans

Health Habits Comment: How do you stop kids from buying junk food off-campus?

school vending machines America's "Official" Obesity Solution

image: Jeff Parker - Florida Today

Strategy 8

Communities should institute smaller portion size options in public service venues.

Suggested measurement
Local government has a policy to limit the portion size of any entree (including sandwiches and entrée salads) by either reducing the standard portion size of entrees or offering smaller portion sizes in addition to standard portion sizes within local government facilities within a local jurisdiction.

Translation: The opposite of Super-Size Me.

Strategy 9

Communities should limit advertisements of less healthy foods and beverages.

Suggested measurement
A policy exists that limits advertising and promotion of less healthy foods and beverages within local government facilities in a local jurisdiction or on public school campuses during the school day within the largest school district in a local jurisdiction.

Translation: Media bans on public property

Strategy 10

Communities should discourage consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.

Suggested measurement
Licensed child care facilities within the local jurisdiction are required to ban sugar-sweetened beverages, including flavored/sweetened milk and limit the portion size of 100% juice.

Translation: Replace fruit drinks with fruit juice and chocolate milk with plain milk or even…water

Strategy to Encourage Breastfeeding

Strategy 11

Communities should increase support for breastfeeding.

Suggested measurement
Local government has a policy requiring local government facilities to provide breastfeeding accommodations for employees that include both time and private space for breastfeeding during working hours.

Strategies to Encourage Physical Activity or Limit Sedentary Activity Among Children and Youth

Strategy 12

Communities should require physical education in schools.

Suggested measurement
The largest school district located within the local jurisdiction has a policy that requires a minimum of 150 minutes per week of PE in public elementary schools and a minimum of 225 minutes per week of PE in public middle schools and high schools throughout the school year (as recommended by the National Association of Sports and Physical Education).

pe class 1950 America's "Official" Obesity Solution

Strategy 13

Communities should increase the amount of physical activity in PE programs in schools.

Suggested measurement
The largest school district located within the local jurisdiction has a policy that requires K–12 students to be physically active for at least 50% of time spent in PE classes in public schools.

Strategy 14

Communities should increase opportunities for extracurricular physical activity.

Suggested measurement
The percentage of public schools within the largest school district in a local jurisdiction that allow the use of their athletic facilities by the public during non-school hours on a regular basis.

Translation: Schools become free public health clubs

Health Habits Comment: Increased taxation required for the extra employees, utilities, insurance, etc?

Strategy 15

Communities should reduce screen time in public service venues.

Suggested measurement
Licensed child care facilities within the local jurisdiction are required to limit screen viewing time to no more than 2 hours per day for children aged ≥2 years.

Health Habits Comment: How about 0 hours of tv? How about reading a book to the kids, or arts & crafts, or playing a game. Sheesh!

poltergeist tv America's "Official" Obesity Solution

Strategies to Create Safe Communities That Support Physical Activity

Strategy 16

Communities should improve access to outdoor recreational facilities.

Suggested measurement
The percentage of residential parcels within a local jurisdiction that are located within a half-mile network distance of at least one outdoor public recreational facility.

Translation: Fitness Alfresco

Health Habits Comment: No question…love this idea

Strategy 17

Communities should enhance infrastructure supporting bicycling.

Suggested measurement
Total miles of designated shared-use paths and bike lanes relative to the total street miles (excluding limited access highways) that are maintained by a local jurisdiction.

Strategy 18

Communities should enhance infrastructure supporting walking.

Suggested measurement
Total miles of paved sidewalks relative to the total street miles (excluding limited access highways) that are maintained by a local jurisdiction.

americas most walkable neighborhood America's "Official" Obesity Solution

Strategy 19

Communities should support locating schools within easy walking distance of residential areas.

Suggested measurement
The largest school district in the local jurisdiction has a policy that supports locating new schools, and/or repairing or expanding existing schools, within easy walking or biking distance of residential areas.

Health Habits Comment: Does this mean the end of busing?

Strategy 20

Communities should improve access to public transportation.

Suggested measurement
The percentage of residential and commercial parcels in a local jurisdiction that are located either within a quarter-mile network distance of at least one bus stop or within a half-mile network distance of at least one train stop (including commuter and passenger trains, light rail, subways, and street cars).

Health Habits Comment: How does public transit directly affect fitness/obesity?

Strategy 21

Communities should zone for mixed use development.

Suggested measurement
Percentage of zoned land area (in acres) within a local jurisdiction that is zoned for mixed use that specifically combines residential land use with one or more commercial, institutional, or other public land uses.

Translation: Create self sufficient “villages” within a community. This way you can walk to the grocery store instead of driving to the mall. Livable city concept.

Strategy 22

Communities should enhance personal safety in areas where persons are or could be physically active.

Suggested measurement
The number of vacant or abandoned buildings (residential and commercial) relative to the total number of buildings located within a local jurisdiction.

Translation: In urban areas, walking at night can be a very real threat to your health.

Health Habits Comment: Violent crime is not a quick or simple fix. No idea how they plan to enhance personal safety in dangerous neighborhoods.

Strategy 23

Communities should enhance traffic safety in areas where persons are or could be physically active.

Suggested measurement
Local government has a policy for designing and operating streets with safe access for all users which includes at least one element suggested by the national complete streets coalition

Translation: Automobiles give up some space to pedestrians, bikes & transit.

Strategy to Encourage Communities to Organize for Change

Strategy 24

Communities should participate in community coalitions or partnerships to address obesity.

Suggested measurement
Local government is an active member of at least one coalition or partnership that aims to promote environmental and policy change to promote active living and/or healthy eating (excluding personal health programs such as health fairs).

Translation: Big federal programs won’t work. Grassroots is the way to go.

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Well, there’s the plan.

Now all we need is some of those big federal health care dollars to come rolling in.

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Doug Robb is a personal trainer, a fitness blogger and author, a competitive athlete, a social media nerd and a student of nutrition and exercise science. Since 2008, Doug has brought his real-world experience online via his health & fitness blog, Health Habits.

9 Comments

  1. bp monitors

    February 12, 2010 at 4:07 am

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  2. karizorn

    September 8, 2009 at 8:55 pm

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  3. Craig

    September 3, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    Very interesting article. My area is a 71, though I wonder about some of those mile figures. I live in one of the slimmest and healthiest cities and states, yet we have one of the highest health insurance rates. I could never figure that out.

    The big difference between now and when I was a kid in the 70s has to be sitting around all the time in the house on the computer. Sitting just doesnt burn the calories. Kids need to get out and play.

    For adults, if they dont want to change, they arent going to and the government isnt going to change that.

  4. Philip

    August 6, 2009 at 9:06 am

    This sounds like another mess of the gov’t trying to throw money at social problems which are based totally on individual choice. The measures will pass; the money will be spent hand-over-fist; the perceived problem will get worse; another study will find some other gov’t intervention that simply _must_ be supported; the cycle will continue…

  5. julie

    August 1, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    My city is #1 walkable city. There aren’t many very large people here. Parking is a nightmare, and I have a car, but bike most places. I walk everywhere within a mile (unless I’m shopping, then I bike), and occasionally I’ll ride public transit. I think good public transit correlates with obesity rates (us, NYC), because it’s not door to door. If I don’t want to spend way too long getting somewhere, I may walk up to a mile on both ends to avoid a second bus. Even if you’re not as impatient, it’s rarely door to door. Plus, drive-thrus not an option, though I don’t eat that stuff anyway.

  6. Melina

    July 30, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    If we can only follow one third of the list we can be and a lot better shape. all it takes is action.

  7. Brit

    July 29, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    Haha, I checked out that Walkable Neighborhoods site, and where I live completely fails–my childhood home our in the country gets a big fat 0, and even my apartment here for college is only an 8.

  8. DR

    July 29, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    My neighborhood (the Annex in Toronto) got a 97 out of 100 – A Walker’s Paradise!!!

    Anyone else

  9. julie

    August 2, 2009 at 2:27 am

    Not to mention, the occasional sprint for a bus that only comes once every 20 minutes. The inevitable dodging of tourists and drunks, leaping banisters, taking the stairs 2-3 at a time-all the fun and adventure that goes with public transit. Not to mention standing for 20 minutes, holding on to a pole to keep from being thrown around, making sure no scumbag gets to paw you-good times, really.

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