described the role of obesity in reducing the pool of potential recruits to the armed services (Christeson et al., 2010).
Rates of adult and childhood obesity in the United States vary significantly by region and by race/ethnicity and age, but overall rates are high. Data from the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES)3 show that among adults aged 20 or older, nearly 34 percent have weight levels in the obese range, and another 34 percent are classified as overweight; thus the combined prevalence of obesity and overweight is nearly 68 percent (Flegal et al., 2010). Among children and adolescents aged 2 through 19, nearly 17 percent are classified as obese and 15 percent as overweight; thus close to 32 percent are either obese or overweight (Ogden et al., 2010).
While there is no evidence that underlying biological susceptibility to weight gain has changed, there is ample evidence of increases in such factors as the amount of food available; the palatability of food (i.e., increases in fat, sugar, and salt); and eating environments that are highly conducive to the consumption, often unintentional, of excess calories (Gearhardt et al., 2011; Kral and Rolls, 2004; Ledikwe et al., 2005; Story et al., 2008; Wansink, 2004). As a result, researchers and policy makers are focusing increased attention on environmental and policy factors that may affect obesity. Individual factors, including genetics, psychological issues, and social and cultural factors, play a role in people’s diets, but so do the physical environments in which they live, the kinds of food that are accessible and affordable where they live and work, the marketing and other media messages they receive, and public policies such as requirements for sidewalks or provision of nutrition information in restaurants.
In this context, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) formed the Committee on Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention, which was charged to review IOM’s past obesity-related recommendations, identify a set of critical recommendations for future action, and recommend indicators of progress in implementing these actions. Given the urgency of a problem that has been described as an epidemic, researchers and policy makers are eager to identify improved measures of the behavioral influences that may contribute to obesity and of the effectiveness of policies designed to reduce obesity rates. Accordingly, as part of its information-gathering process, the committee conducted a workshop in March 2011 to explore measurement methodology in obesity prevention. Held with the support of the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the workshop was an opportunity for the committee to discuss opportunities and challenges related to measurement and to hear from experts in many
3NHANES is a continuous program of studies designed to assess the health and nutritional status of a nationally representative sample of children and adults in the United States.