A year has passed since a report released by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) led to a national call to action to prevent childhood obesity. On October 6-7, a southeastern regional symposium to be held in Atlanta, will assess the strides made thus far, and focus on the roles of community efforts to help combat the widespread epidemic.
The third of four regional IOM symposiums will take place at the Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center. It is being held in collaboration with the Healthcare Georgia Foundation, with support by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Symposiums focusing on the nation's progress and the role of schools were held this year in Washington, DC and Wichita, Kansas. A fourth symposium is scheduled for December in Los Angeles, California. It will focus on the industry and media's role in developing healthier food and beverage product and packing innovations, methods to expand consumer nutrition information, and ways to provide clear and consistent messages.
The IOM committee responsible for the report, "Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance," called the series of meetings to revisit the issues and progress made since the report's initial release in September 2004. The goals established for the symposium are to (1) discuss promising practices for childhood obesity efforts related to communities, (2) to assess progress on the areas of recommendations in the IOM report, and (3) to focus on high-risk populations and examine the next steps that are needed to address childhood obesity prevention in those populations.
"There has been some progress since the report was released and we're encouraged by the continued public and policy interest," says Jeffrey Koplan, MD, MPH, chair of the IOM committee that lead the study, as well as executive vice president for health affairs of Emory University's Woodruff Health Sciences Center. "This symposium will give us the chance to examine how communities and the government can encourage healthy eating patterns and active lifestyles in children. We also hope to gain a better knowledge of the grassroots action and a sense of realities in implementing broad recommendations."
The format of the southeastern regional Atlanta symposium will include presentations, panels, and breakout group discussions, all of which will be presented and facilitated by health promoters, community activists, ministers, legislators, other government officials, and medical professionals.
"The recommendations from the report were followed by action in many states and local areas," Dr. Koplan says. "Arkansas and California in particular have shown great success in efforts to promote health and fitness in those states. Also, Georgia has initiated a statewide, active, coordinated process for promoting physical activity."
In Georgia, the Policy Leadership for Active Youth (PLAY) initiative is a three-year policy research project led by the Georgia State University Institute of Public Health in partnership with the Georgia Center for Obesity and Related Disorders of the University of Georgia and the Medical College of Georgia. The researchers involved collaborate with other stakeholders to identify strategies to increase physical activity and decrease sedentary behaviors among children.
"Preventing childhood obesity, especially by involving stakeholders and our communities, is a national priority and national effort," Dr. Koplan says. "We'll continue to take steps toward our goal and explore the actions needed to implement lifestyle changes to improve the health of our nation's youth."