income families spend a greater proportion of their household income on food than do higher-income families (Nord et al., 2003), taxes on foods may have the effect of being regressive and may lead to unintended consequences such as increasing food insecurity. In any case, taxation may not address the main issue, that many people will not consume greater amounts of healthful foods, even if their relative prices are lower, simply because they prefer energy-dense foods.
Because some states are already taxing specific types of food or beverage products, studying these examples may prove useful. The committee suggests that research into the effects of taxation and pricing strategies be considered a priority to help shed light on the potential outcomes of more broadly applying taxation as a public health strategy for promoting improved dietary behaviors, more physical activity, and reduced sedentary behaviors.
Childhood obesity is a serious nationwide health problem requiring urgent attention and a population-based prevention approach. Innovative ideas, commitments of time and resources by diverse sectors and stakeholders, and sustained efforts involving individual, institutional, and societal changes are needed to ensure that all children grow up physically and emotionally healthy.
Also needed is national leadership that elevates childhood obesity prevention to a top national health priority and dedicates the funding and resources required to make this goal a long-term commitment. Only through policies, legislation, programs, and research will meaningful changes be made. Steady monitoring and evaluation of those changes will inform and refine future efforts. Prevention of obesity in children and youth should be a national public health priority.
Recommendation 1: National Priority
Government at all levels should provide coordinated leadership for the prevention of obesity in children and youth. The President should request that the Secretary of the DHHS convene a high-level task force to ensure coordinated budgets, policies, and program requirements and to establish effective interdepartmental collaboration and priorities for action. An increased level and sustained commitment of federal and state funds and resources are needed.
To implement this recommendation, the federal government should: