This question was the subject of a workshop held on October 21, 2010, in Washington, DC. Hosted by the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM’s) Food and Nutrition Board, the workshop was overseen by the Standing Committee on Childhood Obesity Prevention, which was formed in 2007 to stay abreast of new developments in the field, decide what topics in the field need additional focus, and recommend workshops and consensus studies to address those topics. In keeping with its mandate to cast a wide net for solutions to the obesity problem, the committee decided that an examination of legal strategies was warranted.1

More than 100 people attended the workshop, which also was webcast for those who could not attend in person. Speakers examined:

  • current legal strategies at the national, state, and local levels and their outcomes;
  • other public health initiatives that have used legal strategies to elicit changes in society and industry;
  • the challenges involved in implementing such initiatives;
  • circumstances in which legal strategies are needed and effective; and
  • opportunities for coordinating existing and future legal strategies and sharing information on successes.

Legal terms used by speakers in these presentations are defined in Box 1-1.

THE POTENTIAL OF LEGAL STRATEGIES

Obese children and adolescents are at increased risk for a variety of adverse health outcomes and far more likely to become obese adults, observed Kelly Brownell, director, Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Yale University, in his opening remarks at the workshop. As a result, they will be more likely as adults to struggle with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or other health challenges. Rising obesity rates have already contributed significantly to the growth in health care costs; according to a recent estimate,

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1 The members of the planning committee for the workshop included Kelly Brownell of Yale University, William Dietz of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Garcia of The City Project in Los Angeles, Mary Story of the University of Minnesota, Stephen Teret of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Joseph Thompson of the Robert Wood Johnson Center to Prevent Childhood Obesity. The planning committee’s role was limited to planning the workshop and did not include the preparation of this summary; this summary was prepared by a rapporteur, in collaboration with IOM staff, as a factual account of the presentations and discussions that took place at the workshop. Lynn Parker, Nicole Ferring Holovach, and Matthew Spear from the IOM were instrumental in organizing and running the workshop.



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