Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health

Population-based approaches to childhood obesity prevention

The United Nations Political Declaration of the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases and the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health both identify population-based prevention as being vital to addressing rising levels of noncommunicable diseases, with specific emphasis on childhood obesity.

This document aims to provide Member States with an overview of the types of childhood obesity prevention interventions that can be undertaken at national, sub-national and local levels. The document first outlines guiding principles for the development of a population-based childhood obesity prevention strategy and then describes the approaches for population-based obesity prevention, divided into three broad components:

The first component is the structures within government to support childhood obesity prevention policies and interventions. These are structural aspects such as leadership, “health-in-all” policies, dedicated funding for health promotion, noncommunicable disease monitoring systems, workforce capacity, and networks and partnerships that need to be in place in order to support and enhance the effectiveness of the more direct policy initiatives and community-based interventions.

The second component is population-wide policies and initiatives. These are direct policy actions that help to create environments that support healthy diets and physical activity. The types of policy instruments typically used as part of this component of a comprehensive childhood obesity prevention strategy are laws and regulations, taxes and subsidies, and social marketing campaigns that affect the population as a whole (or large population groups).

The third component is community-based interventions. These are multi-component interventions and programmes, typically applied across multiple settings, tailored to the local environment and implemented locally. Community-based interventions have been demonstrated to be successful when applied in multiple settings, including early childcare settings, schools and other community settings.

In summary, there is a broad range of population-level actions that governments can take to prevent childhood obesity. A comprehensive childhood obesity prevention strategy will incorporate aspects of each of the key components.

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