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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." Institute of Medicine. 2009. Community Perspectives on Obesity Prevention in Children: Workshop Summaries. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12705.
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1
Introduction

Participants in the June 2008 workshop included evaluators and site leaders involved in a variety of childhood obesity prevention programs that are part of the California Convergence project, an effort led and sponsored by The California Endowment and Kaiser Permanente. The California Convergence project is aimed at promoting learning, synergy, and collaboration among community demonstration programs that are at the cutting edge of efforts to address the problem of obesity in the state, as well as nationwide. Each program within the project is focused on enabling and encouraging people to make more healthful choices with respect to both diet and physical activity (California Convergence, 2008).

The workshop included two 2-hour moderated discussions—one with program evaluators and one with site leaders. These two groups are involved on the ground in efforts to develop, implement, and evaluate local childhood obesity prevention programs. Their insights are critical to improving use of the current evidence base and understanding the best approaches to implementing and evaluating childhood obesity prevention programs. Based on recommendations of the California Convergence project, approximately 40 individuals representing diverse obesity prevention programs across the state were invited to participate in the workshop sessions; 11 evaluators and 22 site leaders attended. The workshop attendees are listed in Appendix C.

A planning committee convened by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) prepared questions in advance of the workshop to facilitate the discussion. Using these questions as a starting point, the participants described the challenges involved in collecting and using relevant scientific evidence to

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." Institute of Medicine. 2009. Community Perspectives on Obesity Prevention in Children: Workshop Summaries. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12705.
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inform the planning and implementation of multifaceted community-based obesity prevention programs, as well as opportunities for improving program evaluation. This brief summary highlights the ideas expressed by the program evaluators and site leaders during their respective workshop sessions; it should be noted that these ideas do not represent consensus views or recommendations.

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." Institute of Medicine. 2009. Community Perspectives on Obesity Prevention in Children: Workshop Summaries. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12705.
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Page 3
Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." Institute of Medicine. 2009. Community Perspectives on Obesity Prevention in Children: Workshop Summaries. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12705.
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As the public health threat of childhood obesity has become clear, the issue has become the focus of local, state, and national initiatives. Many of these efforts are centered on the community environment in recognition of the role of environmental factors in individual behaviors related to food and physical activity. In many communities, for example, fresh produce is not available or affordable, streets and parks are not amenable to exercise, and policies and economic choices make fast food cheaper and more convenient than healthier alternatives.

Community efforts to combat obesity vary in scope and scale; overall, however, they remain fragmented, and little is known about their effectiveness. At the local level, communities are struggling to determine which obesity prevention programs to initiate and how to evaluate their impact.

In this context, the Institute of Medicine held two workshops to inform current work on obesity prevention in children through input from individuals who are actively engaged in community- and policy-based obesity prevention programs. Community perspectives were elicited on the challenges involved in undertaking policy and programmatic interventions aimed at preventing childhood obesity, and on approaches to program implementation and evaluation that have shown promise. Highlights of the workshop presentations and discussions are presented in this volume.

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