Preventing Childhood Obesity through Collaborative Public Health Action in Communities

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Obesity, including among children, is a global public health problem that has grown dramatically over the last several decades (Wang & Lobstein, 2006). The rising prevalence of overweight and obesity in the population, and its dramatic implications for health care costs, requires collaborative public health action (Institute of Medicine, 2003). Obesity is caused by an imbalance of energy intake—too many calories consumed in food and drink in relation to energy used or calories burned in daily activity (Goran, Reynolds, & Lindquist, 1999). It is “a multi-factoral condition with wide-ranging causes, including genetic, social, cultural, and behavioral factors” (Parsons, Power, Logan, & Summerbell, 1999).

Obesity prevention efforts focus on the personal and environmental factors that affect the key behaviors of physical activity and healthy nutrition (Dietz & Gortmaker, 2001). Personal factors include: a) knowledge and skill, such as knowledge of healthy food choices and skills in physical activity; b) experience and history, such as a history of positive consequences of engaging in physical activity; and c) biology/genetics including a family history or predisposition to obesity. The “prominent predictor” of obesity among children is overweight in early childhood (Salbe, Weyer, Lindsay, Ravussin, & Tataranni, 2002).