The health care delivery system can provide training and resources to all health care providers and professionals to recognize and monitor individuals who are overweight or obese and to inform and educate patients about the risks and the changes that they can make and the benefits that they will receive. Health care plans should base administrative policy decisions on the evidence (e.g., the association between eating, exercise, and chronic disease and the three times greater likelihood that patients who are counseled about weight loss by their health care providers will actually try to lose weight). The health care sector should also work to adopt the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH’s) 1998 Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults and partner with researchers to establish treatment protocols (e.g., pharmacotherapy and surgery) that are safe, effective, and tailored to individual needs and circumstances. Health care systems and providers should also communicate and work collaboratively with health departments and community-based and national associations and advocacy groups focused on educating the public about the link between obesity and chronic disease.
Businesses and employers can play a major role in carrying out some essential public health services. The contributions of employers may range from providing health insurance plans that offer comprehensive preventive services to supporting research about and implementation of workplace promotion of weight management (e.g., by providing healthy cafeteria and vending machine alternatives and the space, equipment, and time for physical activity). Food industry businesses may also provide point-of-sale nutritional information and healthier menu options.
The news and entertainment media can play a unique part in addressing the problem of obesity. The media can serve primarily as a source of information about the associations between physical activity and nutrition, weight, and chronic disease. Through reporting and entertainment, the media creates a forum for discussing Americans’ increasing girth, its implications for overall health, the social and cultural correlates, and related issues that may increase awareness. Local media may collaborate with local health officials to communicate locally relevant information and to highlight opportunities for community-based physical activity. By taking part in tackling this major population health concern, the media can better fulfill its accountability to the public to provide accurate and timely information.
The academic setting can make many contributions to addressing obesity and its impact on overall population health, especially to the evidence base. For example, research has demonstrated that educational approaches aimed at improving individual knowledge and action about food choices and exercise have been largely ineffective at preventing weight gain (Nestle and Jacobson, 2000; Jeffery, 2001). Academic research is necessary to enhance current monitoring and surveillance tools to more accurately track