U.S. Fails on Measuring Obesity Prevention

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has just issued an unusually blunt assessment of the U.S. failure on measuring obesity prevention efforts. Right up front, the report identifies a gap between the substantial investment in prevention and in evaluating the fruit of those efforts, saying:

The nation still lags behind international efforts in providing the leadership, guidance, support, and necessary infrastructure to support evaluation efforts.

Morgan Downey, writing in the blog of the STOP Obesity Alliance came to a very similar conclusion and taking it a bit further:

For the most part, evaluations of the interventions reveal weak or very modest benefits. The actual picture might be even less positive due to the poor quality of research and publication bias. Publication bias refers to the tendency of journals and researchers to not publish studies with negative or inconclusive findings.

In their summary, the IOM reached consensus on seven broad conclusions:

  1. A gap in knowledge of what works against the obesity interferes with the pressing need to act.
  2. Information from current evaluations is inadequate for decision makers.
  3. Monitoring systems don’t track progress adequately.
  4. Investment in evaluation is too low and sporadic. 
  5. A systematic science approach is needed.
  6. Existing systems lack leadership, coordination, infrastructure, guidance, accountability, and capacity.
  7. Communities lack adequate guidance, capacity, data, and resources necessary to assess their needs and their progress.

But if you don’t need proof, then rest assured. Everything’s working great.

Click here to read more from HealthDay News, click here to read more from Morgan Downey and the STOP Obesity Alliance, and click here to access the IOM report.

Measuring Time, photograph © aussiegall / flickr

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