National Academy of Medicine

Working Toward Engaging Local Businesses in Community Obesity Solutions: A Preliminary Account from the Field

By Paul Bakus, Nico Pronk, and Sylvia Rowe
April 03, 2017 | Discussion Paper

Childhood obesity continues to be a serious public health concern in the United States. About 12.7 million children and adolescents aged 2–19 years, or 17 percent of the population, have obesity. In addition to genetic and behavioral factors, the environments where children live, learn, and play impact their health and well-being. A lack of access to affordable, healthy foods; the absence of physical activity in schools and childcare centers; and a shortage of safe community spaces such as parks, sidewalks, and bike paths also contribute to obesity levels. While reversing and overcoming childhood obesity will be challenging, stakeholders from all sectors of society, including government, nonprofit organizations, business and industry, health care groups, and community members, need to create opportunities to identify and spearhead solutions.

2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recognized the need for solutions and issued a call to action for all segments of society to “help change social norms and values and ultimately support a new prevention and healthy lifestyle paradigm that will benefit the U.S. population today as well as future generations.” Because the repercussions of obesity impact all of society, solutions-oriented engagement is critical not only for general population health, but for the health of the economy. Adult obesity takes a heavy toll on both individual and workforce health, as U.S. workers who have overweight or obesity miss an average of 450 million more work days per year compared with healthy workers of normal weight. In addition, adult obesity costs approximately $190 billion per year in medical expenses. Investing in childhood obesity solutions—whether through education, research, or greater community involvement—can support a healthier workforce and provide improved societal benefits for all. Read more >>

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and not necessarily of the authors’ organizations, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the National Academies). The paper is intended to help inform and stimulate discussion. It is not a report of the NAM or the National Academies. Copyright by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.