Box 2-1

Target Behaviors for Obesity Prevention


  • Increase the consumption of fruits and vegetablesa,b and legumes, whole grains, and nuts.c

  • Limit calories from added sugars, solid fats, and alcohol.b,d,e

  • Decrease the consumption of sugar-sweetened beveragesa/soft drinks.b

  • Increase breastfeeding initiation, duration, and exclusivity.a,b,d

  • Reduce the consumption of high-calorie, energy-dense foods.a,b,c,d

  • Mothers accept their child’s ability to regulate energy intake rather than eating until the plate is empty.b

  • Ensure appropriate micronutrient intake to promote optimal linear growth.b


  • Increase physical activity/promote an active lifestyle.a,b,c,d,e,f

  • Children get at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day; adults aim, per week, for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity.f

  • Decrease television viewing.a,b


  • Limit exposure of young children to heavy marketing of energy-dense, micronutrient-poor foods.b

  • Provide information and skills necessary to make healthy food choices.b



a CDC, 2009.


b WHO, 2003.


c WHO, 2004.


d World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research, 2007.


e USDA/HHS, 2005.


f HHS, 2008.


This section describes a sampling of obesity prevention interventions, adapted along lines suggested by the Spectrum of Prevention developed by Cohen and Swift (Cohen and Swift, 1999; Rattray et al., 2002) for use in public health and health promotion. The Spectrum of Prevention is a framework for developing multifaceted approaches to address complex public health problems. It identifies multiple levels of increasing scope, from the individual level to the policy level, emphasizing that effectiveness in addressing a given issue requires integrated actions across those levels. In this sense, the spectrum is similar to ecological models used to organize objectives and intervention approaches (McLeroy et al., 1988; Stokols et al., 1996). Ecological models describe individual, interpersonal, organizational, environmental, and policy factors.

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