The Search for Elusive Progress Against the Epidemic of Childhood Obesity

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A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics suggests a startling lack of progress against childhood obesity in the United States.1 As someone who has conducted research and policy work in this area for more than 15 years, this news is distressing if not surprising. Considering the progress we have made in a number of practice, policy, and environmental domains (see the Active Living Research and Healthy Eating Research Web sites for numerous examples at and, our inability to move the needle is disheartening. However, if one considers the collective portfolio of childhood obesity prevention and treatment, a few suggestions can be made as we continue to search for solutions to this (still) growing epidemic.
Ultimately, childhood obesity is a multifaceted disease that is going to take a multifaceted approach to prevent and treat. I do not believe that I am going out on a limb when I say that there is not one single policy or program that will reverse the trends we are still observing. However, a more comprehensive and coordinated effort that includes family, community, and clinical approaches has the greatest potential to succeed in reversing the current trends in childhood obesity. As highlighted in this issue, more insight is needed into the development of obesity policies5 and infrastructure to combat obesity.6 Ultimately, the challenge moving forward is one of adoption, implementation, and sustainability in complex systems in need of synergy and cooperation.

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