NECON Working Group on Prevention and Control of Obesity

A Collaborative Initiative between the New England Coalition for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (NECON) and the Harvard School of Public Health

Over the past 25 years the number of overweight people has increased dramatically. About two-thirds of adult Americans are overweight or obese. And an estimated 17 percent of children and adolescents are considered overweight. Although New England looks somewhat better than elsewhere in the nation, the trend is just as alarming. Researchers agree excess body fat is a cause of cardiovascular disease, some cancers, type 2 diabetes and other disabling conditions. Treatment for such diseases is costly. If the rising rate of obesity goes unchecked, prospects for quality of life for a large segment of the population and health care costs for the nation as a whole are grim. For these reasons, weight management, for both children and adults, has become a major health policy concern.

NECON and the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health

NECON is a not-for-profit, non-partisan organization established in 1984 to enhance health policy in New England. Its special emphasis is on disease prevention. The coalition includes state health departments, schools of public health, and federal health agencies, led by Region I of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, medical societies and legislators as well as representatives from industry, labor and voluntary associations. To further its mission NECON has developed a number of multidisciplinary task forces for cancer, heart disease and stroke, obesity, and HIV/AIDS, as well as prevention and health promoting initiatives in mental health, women’s health, managed care and among underserved populations.

Dr. Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health chaired this Working Group on Prevention and Control of Obesity. Dr. Willett is chair of HSPH’s Department of Nutrition and Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition. Dr. Willett’s research is devoted to studying the relationship between diet and disease and he is author of numerous scientific articles in the field of nutritional epidemiology and has recently published a popular book, Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy: the Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating.

Working Group on Prevention and Control of Obesity in New England

In 2001 NECON, in partnership with the Harvard School of Public Health, received funding from Abbott Laboratories to create a regional Prevention and Control of Obesity Working Group, chaired by Dr. Willett. Over 90 representatives from the six New England states and eight subgroups examined overweight, obesity and related disease in New England from many perspectives with the goal of developing a unified action plan. The subgroups and their coordinators are as follows: Epidemiologic Surveillance (Karen Peterson, Sc.D.), Health Care Providers (Jennifer Tremmel, MD), Economics (pending), Worksite Health (Karen Emmons, Ph.D.), School Nutrition and Physical Activity (Jean Wiecha, Ph.D.), Food and the Social Environment (S. Bryn Austin, Sc.D., Kate Bauer, SM), Physical Activity and the Environment (Phil Troped, Ph.D., M.S.) and Mass Media (Lilian Cheung, Sc.D., R.D.) Based in the Department of Nutrition Serena Domolky (JD, MPH) served as coordinator for the development of the strategic plan.

The completed plan was published in October 2005. In 2006, the plan was recognized as a model for the nation by the National Obesity Action Forum, an event sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health, and the Office of Public Health and Science. Visit NECON’s website to view a copy of the plan and to read about follow up activities.

URL for plan:

URL for follow up activities

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