Strategies to Prevent Obesity in the United States Strategies to Prevent Obesity in the United States
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Learn more about CDC’s first comprehensive set of recommended strategies and measures to help communities tackle the problem of obesity through environmental change and policies that promote healthy eating and physical activity.
The medical cost of obesity in the United States may be as high as $147 billion annually, based on a recent study from CDC and the Research Triangle Institute.1 The proportion of all annual medical costs that are due to obesity increased from 6.5 percent in 1998 to 9.1 percent in 2006.1 To address this problem of obesity, CDC has recommended 24 community policy and environmental strategies to prevent obesity.
Recommended Community Strategies and Measurements to Prevent Obesity in the United States
At the inaugural Weight of the Nation (WON) conference, CDC announced its first comprehensive set of recommended strategies and measures to help communities tackle the problem of obesity through environmental change and policies that promote healthy eating and physical activity.
Some of the strategies and community examples of implementation are listed below. A complete list of the strategies and measures can be found at the end of this feature; visit DNPAO for the full MMWR article and the Implementation and Measurement Guide.
Communities Should Improve Availability of Affordable Healthier Food and Beverage Choices in Public Service Venues
The Rhode Island Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity program worked with Brown University to provide easy access to low-cost fresh fruits and vegetables at work sites through a partnership with the state’s largest fresh produce distributor. The pilot test project offered fruits and vegetables at cost for employees at two work sites. "We have had a 70% increase in fruit and vegetable consumption the weeks the [pilot] market was held—not just for those who attended the market and shopped, but people in their household," says Eliza Lawson, program manager.2
Communities Should Improve Geographic Availability of Supermarkets in Underserved Areas
Weight of the Nation award recipient, The Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative (FFFI), is an innovative program that increases the number of supermarkets and grocery stores in underserved communities across the state. Investing in quality food markets in underserved communities directly benefits low- and moderate-income communities. Supermarkets create jobs, serve as retail anchors, and provide access to nutritious food at affordable prices.
Communities Should Enhance Traffic Safety in Areas Where Persons Are or Could Be Physically Active
After noting an increase in motor vehicle crashes resulting in pedestrian injuries and fatalities, a public official in Montgomery County, Maryland, appointed a 40-member Blue Ribbon Panel on Pedestrian and Traffic Safety. The panel developed an action-oriented set of recommendations to reduce pedestrian deaths and injuries and their associated economic costs by addressing ways to create pedestrian-friendly, walk able communities. The panel also developed a pedestrian safety toolbox for community planners.3
Communities Should Increase Support for Breastfeeding
Another WON award recipient, the Navajo Nation, has been working to improve maternity care practices related to breastfeeding to reduce the alarming inequities in breastfeeding outcomes among Navajo compared with other ethnic groups. This effort assists the Navajo community in developing economic sustainability due to breastfeeding. For example, medical costs are reduced because of reduced infant illnesses, medical visits, and prescriptions. Community stability is increased in many ways, including mothers’ reduced needs to miss work to care for sick infants and families’ reduced need to purchase infant formula and bottle feeding accessories. Further, one component of the effort provides training using the HHS Business Case for Breastfeeding training curriculum, which includes a wide variety of cost-effectiveness evaluation and monitoring strategies specific to employers and employed, breastfeeding mothers.
Effective steps must be taken to contain and reduce the enormous burden of obesity. These new CDC recommended strategies and measures will inform and shape current and future programmatic efforts to prevent obesity and offer a practical tool to help state and local governments, school districts, and local partners take necessary action.
CDC’s Recommended Strategies for Obesity Prevention
Communities should do the following:
Increase availability of healthier food and beverage choices in public service venues.
Improve availability of affordable healthier food and beverage choices in public service venues.
Improve geographic availability of supermarkets in underserved areas.
Provide incentives to food retailers to locate in and/or offer healthier food and beverage choices in underserved areas.
Improve availability of mechanisms for purchasing foods from farms.
Provide incentives for the production, distribution, and procurement of foods from local farms.
Restrict availability of less healthy foods and beverages in public service venues.
Institute smaller portion size options in public service venues.
Limit advertisements of less healthy foods and beverages.
Discourage consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.
Increase support for breastfeeding.
Require physical education in schools.
Increase the amount of physical activity in physical education programs in schools.
Increase opportunities for extracurricular physical activity.
Reduce screen time in public service venues.
Improve access to outdoor recreational facilities.
Enhance infrastructure supporting bicycling.
Enhance infrastructure supporting walking.
Support locating schools within easy walking distance of residential areas.
Improve access to public transportation.
Zone for mixed-use development.
Enhance personal safety in areas where persons are or could be physically active.
Enhance traffic safety in areas where persons are or could be physically active.
Participate in community coalitions or partnerships to address obesity.