Similarly, health-care professional organizations and their members have important roles to play in advocating across the range of community institutions for obesity prevention activities and policies (AAP, 2003). Areas of possible involvement include health insurance coverage policies, school nutrition and physical education, and community recreation and zoning policies. Professional organizations can also be influential in encouraging their members to adopt a more healthful lifestyle and serve as role models to their patients as well as to become more active in their offices and communities in working to prevent obesity. For example, the leadership of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) has recently challenged all of its members to increase their personal physical activity levels in order to serve as role models for their patients (as well as improve their own health); additionally, AAFP has initiated a program called “Americans in Motion” to help patients, their families, and communities fight obesity (AAFP, 2004).
Furthermore, many professional organizations are providing information on topics relevant to obesity prevention. The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued position statements on children’s television viewing and on physical fitness and activity in schools (AAP, 2000, 2001). The American Medical Association recently published a 10-part monograph on assessment and treatment of adult obesity (Kushner, 2003); similar materials on children should also be prepared. Collaboration between groups could broaden their effectiveness; if health-care professional organizations work together to implement obesity prevention programs and initiatives and develop clinical guidance, they would help ensure that consistent messages are reaching both health-care professionals and their patients.
Health- and medical-care professional organizations should make childhood obesity prevention a high-priority goal for their organizations. This includes creating and disseminating evidence-based clinical guidance and other materials on obesity prevention; establishing programs to encourage members to be role models for proper nutrition and physical activity; advocating for childhood obesity prevention initiatives; and coordinating their efforts, wherever possible, with other health-care professional organizations.
It is also critical to address current limitations in health-care training with regard to obesity prevention, nutrition, and physical activity. Medical and other health-care students have traditionally received little education in nutrition and physical activity; further, instruction on counseling about these topics generally has not been included either in medical school or primary-care residency training curricula (Taren et al., 2001). Such omissions should be corrected in curricula at all levels, from preclinical science through the clinical training years and into postgraduate training programs and continuing medical education for practicing clinicians. In addition, if