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Multiple interventions needed to combat childhood obesity

9/7/2011, 4:53 p.m.

Although the links between sweetened beverage consumption and obesity are not definitive, the committee recommended that children be encouraged to avoid sodas and other high-calorie, low-nutrient beverages. In addition, parents should serve small portions, encourage children to stop eating when they feel full,and avoid using food as a reward.

Caregivers can encourage children to make physical activity a regular part of their lives by engaging in active play or sports with them, providing equipment and opportunities and cheering on children's active pursuits.

Parents should decrease their children's inactivity by limiting recreational TV viewing and video and computer game playing to two hours a day or less. Studies have shown that the prevalence of obesity is highest among children who watch several hours of television each day or who have TV sets in their bedrooms. The committee noted that the limit applies only to recreational screen time and does not preclude the use of computers and other media for educational purposes.

Involvement of Health Professionals

The report stresses that health insurers and health plans should designate childhood obesity prevention as a priority and include screening and obesity prevention services in routine clinical practice. The high cost of obesity treatment should provide insurers with a financial incentive to prevent the condition. The IOM also recommended a policy for physicians that has already been adopted by MSSNY-to counsel parents and guardians about their children's weight and to keep up to date on treatments for obesity.

The IOM study was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; the National Institutes of Health's Division of Nutrition Research Coordination; and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The Institute of Medicine is a private, nonprofit institution that provides health policy advice under a congressional charter granted to the National Academy of Sciences. For more information about the IOM and the complete report, go to www.iom.edu.

This information is provided by the Medical Society of the State of New York. For more health-related information and referrals to physicians in your community, contact your local county medical society.