tion, monitoring and research, and dissemination and use of evidence from evaluations (IOM, 2007). Local governments across the nation comprise a variety of departments, including public health, public works, transportation, parks and recreation, public safety, planning, economic development, housing, and tourism. These departments’ policies and programs can affect childhood obesity directly and indirectly. For example, reducing vehicle traffic in a city for the purpose of reducing air pollution may also make it easier for people to walk to their destinations. Likewise, as noted in Chapter 1, policies and programs developed to prevent childhood obesity can meet other local government goals as well. For example, after-school recreation programs implemented to increase physical activity with obesity prevention in mind can help meet crime prevention goals by reducing opportunities for youth to be victims or perpetrators of crime. Since in some cases it is a great deal easier for a local government official to advocate for youth-related crime reduction measures than for childhood obesity prevention interventions, taking advantage of these multiple positive outcomes can be useful. Box 2-1 describes one city’s sustainability plan that, although not focused explicitly on childhood obesity, contains many childhood obesity prevention strategies.
Local government leadership is critical to both reducing and preventing further increases in childhood obesity. Leadership requires galvanizing of political commitment, policy development, prioritized funding, and coordination of programs (Baker and Porter, 2005). Officials at the local level can work to adopt policies and pass ordinances that enable communities to have accessible and affordable options for healthy food and physical activity. Throughout the United States, mayors, city council members, and other local officials have initiated and led city-wide campaigns and followed through on commitments to lead community walks and other fitness activities, in addition to providing leadership through innovative policy and program changes. Box 2-2 describes the example of a mayor who spearheaded a comprehensive health campaign in his small, rural town. Support for community coalitions focused on improving wellness is an additional key leadership contribution.