Obesity prevention in children: Opportunities and challenges

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OBJECTIVE: Longitudinal survey data from a number of countries confirm that the number of overweight children continues to increase at alarming rates, and even developing countries are experiencing a rise in their overweight population. There is ample consensus that prevention strategies are essential to turn the tide of the obesity epidemic, and yet there are still relatively few proven prevention approaches for children. This paper briefly discusses some of the common features of childhood obesity prevention programs, focusing on the experience in the US and Canada.APPROACH: Most prevention programs include at least one of the following components: dietary changes, physical activity, behavior and social modifications, and family participation. School-based prevention programs may also include elements related to the school environment and personnel. Primary prevention programs cannot usually restrict caloric intake, but may effectively reduce the energy intake by reducing the energy density of foods, increasing offering of fresh fruits and vegetables, using low-calorie versions of products, and reducing offering of energy-dense food items. Physical activity interventions have recently focused more on reducing inactive time, particularly television viewing. Results from recent studies have reported success in reducing excess weight gain in preadolescents by restricting TV viewing.SUMMARY: Integrating all the activities of a multi-component prevention intervention, and delivering and sustaining it in different environments, continues to be a major challenge for health professionals as well as for parents, educators, and children themselves. Still, encouraging progress has been made in several areas, and the increased awareness of the problem of childhood obesity by all concerned will continue to foster our efforts in this area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S90-S95
JournalInternational Journal of Obesity
StatePublished - 2004


  • Childhood
  • Prevention programs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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