Stories about: Institute of Medicine

Obesity prevention for the under 5 crowd

Is there anything cuter than the chubby face of a smiling baby?  Maybe not, but in some instances that baby fat should elicit more concern than cooing, according to a report released by the Institute of Medicine (IOM).

The Early Childhood Obesity Prevention Policies report shows that even the youngest children in the United States are at risk of becoming obese. Today, almost 10 percent of infants and toddlers are heavy when compared to their length, and that number doubles for kids between the ages of 2 and 5.

A little baby fat may not be a red flag for health concerns now, but studies show that early obesity can track into adulthood. To prevent future health problems before they occur, the IOM is calling on healthcare professionals, caregivers and policymakers to step up their game when it comes to imparting on parents the importance of nutrition, physical activity and the dangers of sedentary behavior. And the sooner the better; the report stresses that kids should be on the right nutrition and physical activity path before they even enter school.

Elsie Taveras, MD, MPH

“There’s been a lot of evidence accumulating over the past couple years that indicates that the first few years of life are crucial to future health and the prevention of obesity in children,” says Elsie Taveras, MD, MPH, who served on the IOM committee that released the report and is co-director of Children’s Hospital Boston’s One Step Ahead Program. “In the past there’s been a precedent to wait until a problem exists before we intervene, but the point of this report was to stress the importance of prevention. Preventing obesity before it occurs is easier and more efficient than trying to reduce it once its been established.”

Because obesity can’t be prevented by just one single method, the IOM report made several suggestions. Here’s a breakdown of some their more important findings:

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How local goverments can help kids be healthier

stockphotopro_74990DXA_young_girl_in_kitThe Institute of Medicine (IOM) reports that 16.3 percent of children between the ages of two and 19 are obese, putting them at risk for health problems that could reduce their life expectancy and quality of life. And while parents and caregivers play the biggest role in shaping children’s wellness habits, their efforts are often undermined by local problems – like unhealthful school lunches or poorly kept playgrounds – that don’t support those habits.

So today the IOM’s Committee on Childhood Obesity Prevention Actions for Local Governments released its recommendations for ways that local governments can support healthy lifestyles for children rather than impeding them.

The report includes more than 50 suggestions covering everything from improving access to and consumption of healthful, safe and affordable food while reducing access to unhealthful foods; increasing awareness about the importance of healthful eating and encouraging physical activity.

They identified these 12 steps as being the “most promising”:

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