The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has published an August 2013 report that seeks to provide guidance to federal, state and local groups “for systematic and routine planning, implementation, and evaluation of the advancement of obesity prevention efforts.” Titled Evaluating Obesity Prevention Efforts: A Plan for Measuring Progress, the latest effort complements the specific goals and strategies outlined in a 2012 report funded by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation as part of IOM’s Weight of the NationTM campaign. To this end, it offers frameworks for national, state and community-level obesity evaluation plans that address “aspects of data collection and infrastructure systems, capacity for conducting evaluations, and feedback mechanisms for the data collected,” among other things.

In particular, the report identifies 83 indicators for evaluation, including overarching indicators that “focus on obesity, overweight, and weight status for evaluating the combined effect of the full system of the goals and strategies outlined in the 2012 report.” Taken together, these indicators of progress seek to measure “collective impact of obesity prevention efforts,” as well as improvements to (i) the physical activity environment, (ii) the food and beverage environment, (iii) the messaging environment, (iv) healthcare and work sites, and (v) school and child care environments. In addition to urging all federal, state and local agencies to use these indicators as a guide to “identify, coordinate, and maximize” data collection efforts, standardize their findings and facilitate access to the data collected, the report specifically calls on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Agriculture, “and various nongovernmental and professional organizations,” to increase “the capacity of diverse and interdisciplinary workforce engaged in conducting the assessments, surveillance, monitoring, and summative evaluation activities.”

“The solution to the obesity crisis will depend on finding and assessing its causes. The recommendations made by the IOM committee focus on efforts to increase the likelihood that actions taken to prevent obesity will be evaluated, that their progress in accelerating the prevention of obesity will be monitored, and that the most promising practices will be widely disseminated,” concludes the report. “Flexible and responsive evaluation plans at the national, state, and community level are central to providing informed, improved guidance.” Additional details about IOM’s 2012 Weight of the Nation™ strategy report appear in Issue 439 of this Update.