Institute of Medicine says societal shift needed to combat skyrocketing obesity rates

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POSTED: Friday, May 11, 2012 - 2:00am

UPDATED: Friday, May 11, 2012 - 2:04am

When the country has faced health epidemics in the past such as the flu, measles, or polio we've been able to overcome it with vaccines.

To have a shot at tackling the obesity epidemic, the Institute of Medicine has identified a series of recommendations for all Americans, starting with exercise.

This includes 60 minutes of daily exercise for kids in schools, where gym class has dropped to once a week in many communities.

They're also calling for nutrition education in schools and increased availability of healthy foods and drinks in cafeterias.

"If these strategies aren't reinforced elsewhere, or worse undermined, then progress cannot be accelerated," warns Dr. Christine Economos.

The committee stresses synergy.

Schools may be set up to fail if parents don't encourage exercise at home, or if kids don't have sidewalks or a safe place to play in their neighborhood.

The nearly 500 page report from the IOM lists an extensive array of recommendations.

They include taxing sugar sweetened beverages and encouraging farmers to harvest more vegetables.

The committee also calls for drowning out the vast marketing of junk food.

"We need dietary guidelines to be marketed at a louder voice than what's being marketed to people now," says Dr. Shiriki Kumanyika.

Some companies are already making changes.

McDonald's now includes apples and fewer french fries in its happy meals, and Bird's Eye has said it will invest $6 million in a campaign encouraging kids to eat their vegetables.

The Institute of Medicine recommendations do not change laws, but they do influence government policies and programs.

Members are not financially compensated for their work.
 

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