I’m a few days late to it, but Slate has a very good – and very smart – piece on fighting childhood obesity. Arguing that “everything about modern living may be the cause of epidemic obesity” and that trying to find one solution for “is rather like attempting to determine which sandbag in a levee stops the flood,” writer David L. Katz advocates for “attacking the problem on multiple fronts.” Among his (excellent) suggestions:
We need a comprehensive system of reforms in knowledge, behavior, policies, and the environment. We need nutrition education and physical education in schools. We need to have physical-activity breaks as a standard part of the workday. Every neighborhood needs to provide recreational facilities and sidewalks, and new neighborhoods should be designed so that it makes sense to get around in them by foot rather than by car. We need social engineering to give us back time to prepare food at home or ways to eat out that offer good nutrition at low cost.
We need to make it a social norm to take the stairs rather than the elevator (or at least make the stairs more fun). We need to overhaul the food supply and eliminate the category of “junk” food. We need to subsidize the sale of fresh fruits and vegetables. Better still, we need to link subsidies to an objective measure of nutrition. We need truth in advertising and controls on food marketing to children.
We need to educate families about how to practice good nutrition and physical activity together. It should once again be possible for children to walk and bike to school. The nutritional quality of foods should be reliably discernible at a glance (something I’ve been working on). We need clinicians who provide effective lifestyle counseling so they are consistently part of the solution and never part of the problem.
We need policies, practices, and programs that make eating well and being active the daily routine and cultural norm. And we need to make it easy for people to convert their commitment to the cause into a constructive contribution.
Previously: Smaller plates may be a tool to curtail childhood obesity, Obesity prevention in high-risk kids – challenging but worth it, Obesity in kids: A growing and dangerous epidemic, Stanford pediatrician discusses developing effective program to curtail childhood obesity and Major effort launched to prevent, treat childhood obesity
Photo by Chicago’s North Shore Conventions & Visitors Bureau