Family Lunch

Families Hold the Key to Childhood Obesity

Obesity Trends 2014At the Institute of Medicine’s Roundtable on Obesity Solutions Tuesday, a concise review of the latest obesity prevalence data provided a strong close for the meeting’s  two-day agenda. New data on obesity trends forced a reconsideration of previously sunnier assessments that obesity rates were yielding to strategies for controlling its growth. To reverse trends in childhood obesity, it looks more and more like families hold the key.

New empiric evidence shows that rates were indeed up in 2014 for adults and unimproved for youth. So the Roundtable heard that prevention of childhood obesity may never succeed if care for adults who are living with obesity continues to be neglected. In fact, people living with obesity encounter a harsh reality when they seek medical care for their condition. They are most often blocked by archaic health plan designs that treat obesity as an elective condition and deny access to evidence-based care for it.

We have said it for some time: obesity treatment and prevention are inseparable.

Family Lunch, photograph © Karina / flickr

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January 13, 2016

4 Responses to “Families Hold the Key to Childhood Obesity”

  1. January 13, 2016 at 9:01 am, Christine Weithman said:


    Thanks for sharing this info on the 2 day meeting – it is important that everyone understand that the data is not improving. Helping to treat families with support for adult tx is just one aspect of care clearly and more need to sound the bell that Tx and prevention need to go hand in hand. So many sectors need to work together who are now battling each other.

    • January 13, 2016 at 10:04 am, Ted said:

      You’re right, Chris. Thanks!

  2. January 13, 2016 at 2:47 pm, Allen Browne said:


    As I have said “Bad is still bad, even if it is not worse”.

    The first step of prevention and of treatment is the establishment of a healthy environment – personally, locally, and globally. Susceptibility to the deleterious effects of a non-healthy environment is highly variable and the expression is variable – obesity, metabolic syndrome, one or the other, both, none. Nobody is made not healthy by a healthy environment. And, as they say, “What is good for the goose is good for the gander and the goslings”. So really, access to a healthy environment, understanding what is a healthy environment, and access to more if the patient/family needs more as determined by their genetics and stage of disease would be a good place to start. We all need to play in the sandbox together. “Environmentalists”, weight management practitioners, dietitians, kinesiologists, Mental health providers …There is plenty of work for all.

  3. January 13, 2016 at 5:45 pm, Eszter Erdelyi said:

    Instead of saying families hold the key, I would say family eating and feeding behavior have received relatively little guidance compared to policy initiatives.

    In the meantime the individual objective of a parent feeding a child shifted from making sure the child eats a healthy meal now to raising an intuitive or competent eater in a hostile food environment. Feeding is a complex decision making process with 10+ decisions and actions involving one meal, every one of which can sabotage the expected outcome. To provide a reasonably nutritious, age appropriate, within budget, available, doable, enjoyable meal three times a day every day, to model eating behavior, involve kids in the process, practice mindful eating as a family together is difficult to do, and the advice related to a subset of these, such as “eat more broccoli” will never get sufficient results.

    Success addressing this problem could only be claimed by clinical childhood obesity programs which always involved the whole family but are expensive and unscalable. Thus if the family holds the key, they need advice which have to be commercially uninterested to be credible, address behavior change in the context of complex decision making and call the food environment hostile, as it is (people use what is available to them to eat as a “baseline”). Companies attempting to provide some of this advice on the web or through apps to make it scaleable are switching into the individual coaching model because persuasive technology alone can not address the complex decision making and the individual skill profile of the families.

    Last but not least, while socioeconomic status is a strong indicator of healthy eating status, this problem exists in families with more resources as well, it is just called picky eating.