Turning Around the Epidemic
The fact that the obesity epidemic didn’t flash over countries like a wildfire—rather it smoldered and then slowly grew year after year—has made it even more difficult to combat, since its causes have become so intertwined into the social, environmental, and governmental fabric.
Yet efforts to combat obesity—primarily through prevention—are beginning to gain traction, if by a step at a time. To realize real strides, though, positive change must come to all parts of society: from governments and schools, businesses and non-profit organization, neighborhoods and communities, individuals and families. We need to change policies and create an environment where the default option is the healthy choice.
Evidence shows that obesity prevention policy and environmental change efforts should focus on facilitating a handful of key behaviors:
- Choosing healthier foods (whole grains, fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and protein sources) and beverages
- Limiting unhealthy foods (refined grains and sweets, potatoes, red meat, processed meat) and beverages (sugary drinks)
- Increasing physical activity
- Limiting television time, screen time, and other “sit time”
- Improving sleep
- Reducing stress
This section of the website summarizes promising strategies for obesity prevention, based on a review of expert guidance from major governmental, professional, and public health advocacy organizations. Inside, you will find high-level recommendations for changes in key settings—families, early childcare, schools, worksites, healthcare organizations—and for broad, community-wide changes in the food and activity environments that can help make healthy choices easier choices, for all. Each page also includes links to toolkits, guidelines, and other useful resources for putting these obesity prevention strategies into practice. Over time, we will add new obesity prevention strategies, recommendations, and resources as more evidence emerges. Keep in mind that these obesity prevention recommendations are based primarily on a review of U.S. expert guidance, unless otherwise indicated; in other countries, different policy approaches may be needed to achieve improvements in food and physical activity environments.
The aim of the Harvard School of Public Health Obesity Prevention Source Web site is to provide timely information about obesity’s global causes, consequences, prevention, and control, for the public, health and public health practitioners, business and community leaders, and policymakers. The contents of this Web site are not intended to offer personal medical advice. You should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Web site. The Web site’s obesity prevention policy recommendations are based primarily on a review of U.S. expert guidance, unless otherwise indicated; in other countries, different policy approaches may be needed to achieve improvements in food and physical activity environments, so that healthy choices are easy choices, for all.