The September 2011 issue of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s research and policy journal, Preventing Chronic Disease, features a special section dedicated to “Ethical Issues in Interventions for Childhood Obesity,” where contributors with Public Health Law & Policy, Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, and other organizations discuss how best to balance government’s public health role with private rights and interests. In particular, the section includes articles that explore (i) strategies to limit youth food marketing in municipal spaces not already regulated by federal agencies; (ii) an ethical framework for evaluating popular policies, such as menu calorie labeling and soft drink taxes; (iii) perspectives from the Arkansas Act 1220 of 2003, “the first comprehensive legislative initiatives to combat childhood obesity”; (iv) ethical family and school interventions; and (v) the economic rationale for government intervention.
“During the past decade, people throughout the country—from rural communities to the White House—have joined efforts to promote change. The growth of the movement to prevent childhood obesity is impressive and inspiring, but we still have far to go,” writes Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Senior Program Officer John Govea in the issue introduction, which notes a surge in recent local, state and federal efforts to tackle childhood obesity. “The articles presented in this collection address a selection of the most important and understudied aspects of childhood obesity interventions, the ethical implications of what we recommend or implement.”
Meanwhile, the Lancet has also released a four-part series focused on “the global obesity pandemic: its drivers, its economic and health burden, the physiology behind weight control and maintenance, and what science tells us about the kind of actions that are needed to change our obesogenic environment.” To this end, the final paper identifies “several cost-effective policies that governments should prioritize,” such as improvements to the food and built environments, cross-cutting leadership and monitoring actions, and increased funding for prevention programs. “Increased investment in population obesity monitoring would improve the accuracy of forecasts and evaluations,” conclude the paper authors. “The integration of actions within existing systems into both health and non-health sectors (trade, agriculture, transport, urban planning, and development) can greatly increase the influence and sustainability of policies. We call for a sustained worldwide effort to monitor, prevent, and control obesity.”