WASHINGTON, DC; September 30, 2004 -- Ten years after declaring that obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death and launching Shape Up America!, the first privately funded nonprofit educational campaign to promote healthy weight for life, former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop is lending his clout to a new crusade: preventing the epidemic of childhood obesity in this country.
Responding to the conclusions of the new report, Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance, issued by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), Dr. Koop pledged the resources of Shape Up America! to promote the report's findings and to advocate for swift implementation of the IOM's recommendations. Dr. Koop also called on all federal agencies that fund research and prevention programs, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Maternal and Child Health Bureau to address the many gaps in knowledge about childhood obesity identified in the report on an expedited basis.
"As a nation, we cannot ignore the pressing problem of childhood obesity, which threatens the health of children as they grow and mature, and significantly increases the risk of disabling diseases of adulthood which now afflict our children," said Dr. Koop. "The IOM report represents a clarion call for all Americans to take responsibility for stopping the epidemic of childhood obesity."
Of special concern to Shape Up America! is promoting change in the nation's schools so that children will have more access to healthy foods and will engage in a minimum of 30 minutes of vigorous physical activity within each school day. Towards this end, Shape Up America! will support the call for new nutritional standards for all foods sold in schools, and will serve as a catalyst to develop policies that will help schools fund their educational and extracurricular programs without the need for company advertising or the sales of competitive foods that fail to meet those standards.
Shape Up America! also applauded the IOM recommendations calling for pediatricians, family practitioners and other health professionals to assess and actively discuss a child's weight status (as measured by BMI) with parents. "Physicians can no longer sit on the sidelines as the childhood obesity epidemic escalates," said Dr. Koop. "Doctors need to be on the front lines in screening for childhood obesity and must intervene early to address the problem head on."
In addition to health care professionals, the IOM report calls upon schools to conduct at least annual assessments of the weight status of all schoolchildren. To assist schools in responding to this call, Shape Up America! is unveiling an online tool to automate the process of calculating and correctly plotting the BMI of children two years and older, which has been a difficult process up to now. This new tool instantly calculates and plots the gender- and age-specific BMI percentile of a child, and provides a printout of the result.
According to Barbara J. Moore, Ph.D., president and CEO of Shape Up America!, who served on the 19 member IOM Committee on Prevention of Obesity in Children and Youth, which researched and wrote the report, "Childhood obesity has now become a serious health issue. Changing how our entire society responds to childhood obesity is essential to reducing the prevalence of type 2 diabetes, which is soon to become the most prevalent form of pediatric diabetes."
Recognizing the causal linkages between obesity and the onset of type 2 diabetes in both children and adults, Shape Up America! created a new term - "diabesity"® - which specifically focuses on this link. Furthermore, Shape Up America! is conducting an educational initiative and has been working with the medical community to develop specific strategies for addressing this public health threat.
Shape Up America! will also focus its resources on another critical issue addressed in the IOM report: the regulation of food intake during pregnancy and infancy. Because the prevention of childhood obesity begins at conception and continues through pregnancy and infancy, Shape Up America! hosted an international conference on this issue and developed symposium proceedings, which summarized the latest science on the factors that promote self-regulation of food intake and energy balance in infants and very young children. The proceedings, which will be published in a special supplement of the journal Pediatrics on October 4, will be widely distributed to the medical community.
"Thanks to the IOM, we now have a report that ranks in importance with the 1964 Surgeon General's report on smoking. It represents a national blueprint for action for parents, schools, communities and all levels of society." said Dr. Koop. "But because this is a complex, multifaceted problem, reversing the tide of childhood obesity will require the same national commitment that we now give to preventing cancer, heart disease and other major diseases."
Launched in 1994, Shape Up America! is a national education and public policy campaign working to combat obesity by promoting healthy eating and increased physical activity. Shape Up America! also serves as a change agent for promoting the assessment and medical treatment of obesity by holding conferences, issuing treatment guidance, and conducting programs at medical schools and institutions.
More information about Shape Up America! is available at www.shapeup.org.