Gov't Advisory Group Recommends Community-Level Obesity Watch

By Susan Jones | August 6, 2013 | 12:26 PM EDT

(AP File Photo)

( - The federal government has determined that obesity is a national health epidemic, and while obesity-prevention goals were established at the national level in 2012, the question now is how to determine if those goals are being met -- not just nationally, but in your very own neighborhood.

The federally funded Institute of Medicine (IOM) has just released a report listing 83 ways to "assess the progress made in every community"--and at the national level--in the fight against obesity.

Some of the benchmarks would require new legislation or executive action to change the way we live and work. (See below)

The Institute of Medicine is an independent federally funded organization that works outside of government to provide "unbiased and authoritative advice to decision makers," including members of Congress, and the public. Its 2012 annual report said that it received 78 percent of the funding for its programs from the federal government.

It was the IOM that controversially recommended what preventive health services -- including birth control, sterilization and abortifacients -- should be covered without charge under Obamacare.

"Let's Move!" on steroids

The IOM's 83 "indicators for measuring progress" in obesity-prevention include the following, in no particular order. This is  only a partial list.

-- Increase the proportion of walking trips made by adults for leisure or commuting to work;

-- Increase the proportion of recreation and fitness facilities per 1,000 people;

-- Increase the proportion of children aged 0–17 years living in safe neighborhoods;

-- Increase the proportion of trips to school made by walking 1 mile or less or biking 2 miles or less by children aged 5 to 15 years;

-- Increase the proportion of the nation’s public and private schools that provide access to their physical activity spaces and facilities for all persons outside of normal school hours;

-- Increase legislative policies for the built environment (where you live and work) that enhance access to and availability of physical activity opportunities;

-- Have states and school districts adopt policies that prohibit the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages in schools and require that schools offer a variety of no- or low-calorie beverage options that are favorably priced;

-- Reduce the relative price of low-fat milk (compared to soda/sweetened beverages);

-- Reduce caloric intake by children and adolescents in chain and quick-service restaurants;

-- Increase the number of states that adopt a law imposing an excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages and dedicating a portion of the revenue to obesity prevention programs;

-- Reduce the density of fast-food restaurants (per 100,000 population);

-- Increase the proportion of physician office visits that include counseling or education related to nutrition or weight and physical activity;

-- Increase the proportion of worksites that offer an employee health promotion program to their employee;

-- Increase the proportion of children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years old who were exclusively breastfed or given breast milk for their first 6 months;

-- Increase the percentage of U.S. hospitals with policies and practices to support breastfeeding;

-- Increase the proportion of employers that have worksite lactation-support programs;

-- Increase the proportion of school districts that require schools to make fruits or vegetables available whenever other food is offered or sold;

-- Increase the proportion of schools with a School Breakfast Program;

-- Increase the proportion of college and university students who receive information from their institution on inadequate physical activity.

The IOM recommends that an "obesity evaluation task force or other entity should oversee and implement" the National Obesity Evaluation Plan. It says the national plan can be a model for state and regional evaluations -- "providing comparable data that can be used as benchmarks for progress over time."

And while a national plan can show changes in general trends over time, "state and community-level plans provide an additional level of detail," the report states.

Therefore, the IOM outlines a Community Obesity Evaluation Plan with four elements: community health assessment, surveillance, intervention monitoring, and something called "summative evaluation."

According to IOM, “assessment” means looking at the number and distribution of obese people within a community and at efforts to eliminate the problem.

“Surveillance” is the continuous assessment of progress over time.

“Monitoring” means tracking the implementation of various anti-obesity interventions;

And “summative evaluation” seeks to detect changes associated with particular interventions.