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Progress in Preventing Childhood Obesity: How Do We Measure Up?
In 2005, the Federal Interagency Working Group on Overweight and Obesity Research was formed to strengthen federal leadership in the area of obesity research. The working group is cochaired by the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy, DHHS, and USDA (Appendix D). Its purpose is threefold: to facilitate constructive, coordinated research across diverse federal agencies and departments; identify areas in which interagency collaboration can extend progress in obesity prevention; and advise OSTP’s Committee on Science about the research needs and opportunities related to overweight and obesity and associated adverse health effects (NSTC, 2006). The intent of the working group is not to duplicate the research initiatives of other federal agencies, such as the NIH Obesity Research Task Force (see below); rather, it is intended to enhance and strengthen the total federal research effort by interdepartmental collaboration (Yanovski, 2006). The working group is in its initial phases, and its efforts have not yet been evaluated. The working group could serve as a component of the broader federal coordinating task force described earlier in this chapter.
The NIH Obesity Research Task Force was established in FY 2003 to accelerate progress in obesity research across the NIH institutes, centers, and offices and is another example of federal leadership in research. An important charge to the task force was the development and implementation of a Strategic Plan for NIH Obesity Research (Spiegel and Alving, 2005), the coordination of obesity-related research activities across NIH, and the development of new research efforts (NIH, 2004; Spiegel and Alving, 2005). The Strategic Plan for NIH Obesity Research focuses on goals for basic, clinical, and population-based obesity research and has the following strategies for achieving the goals:
Identify modifiable behavioral and environmental factors that contribute to the development of obesity in children and adults through research for the prevention and treatment of obesity through lifestyle modification;
Identify genetic factors and biologic targets related to obesity and identify pharmacologic, medical, and surgical approaches for preventing and treating obesity; and
Identify the connections between obesity and type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and other diseases and approaches for addressing these chronic conditions.
The strategic plan focuses on enhancing crosscutting research by encouraging interdisciplinary research teams; focusing on specific populations such as children and racial/ethnic minorities; conducting translational research that progresses from basic science to clinical studies, trials, and