"The physical and emotional health of an entire generation and the economic health and security of our nation is at stake. This isn't the kind of problem that can be solved overnight, but with everyone working together, it can be solved." -Michelle Obama - February 2010
World Health Organization data from 1990 placed the childhood obesity rate in the United States, then the highest in the world, at 10.6%. Every other country had a rate in the single digits. Things look very different today. The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, collected though 2020, reveals a childhood obesity rate that has doubled in thirty years. Moreover,since that data was published, the Covid-19 pandemic and its associated lockdowns have driven obesity even higher, doubling the average rate of weight gain among children aged 12 to 19 years old in two short years.
These numbers in and of themselves are cause for concern. Research suggests that obese children are more likely to be targets of bullying and to display low self esteem. They are also at risk for a number of serious medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, which can follow them into adulthood if they grow up to be obese adults, which per Georgetown University, more than 50% do. The raw numbers also hide health disparities among racial and ethnic groups, both in terms of childhood obesity and in terms of its negative health externalities.
Yet, as serious as the individual impacts are, the disease has society-wide repercussions. A 2021 study published in the British Medical Journal estimated that should obesity continue to grow at current rates, countries will be spending 3.6% of GDP on average to manage its externalities. From a health perspective, a 2016 study meanwhile found that adults with obesity in the United States had medical costs 100% higher than the non-obese population, while the CDC concluded that obese individuals were three times more likely than their non-obese counterparts to be hospitalized with Covid-19.
Moreover, while research has shown that targeted interventions, especially in childhood and adolesence are effective at reversing or preventing obesity, such efforts are either difficult to implement effectively at scale, or only end up addressing one facet of an incredibly multiplex problem. In either instance the overall trend line continues in the wrong direction.
This dialogue will attempt to address these shortcomings by bringing together policymakers, academics, clinicians, and experts from across all facets of society. Delegates will identify policy gaps, generate ideas to address them, share best-practices, and ultimately come away more empowered to improve the health of children and adolescents in the United States.
Evaluate current trends in childhood obesity, especially the growth trends associated with the Covid-19 pandemic and their long-term staying power.
Analyze the disparate rates of childhood obesity across populations, explore their causes, and identify opportunities for targeted interventions.
Discuss strategies to increase access to physical activity, both in educational institutions and in communities, with an emphasis on historically under-served areas.
Examine the potential for standardizing more nutritionally complete school meal options including breakfast and dinner.
Evaluate the downstream impacts of agricultural and food marketing policies on childhood nutrition and discuss strategies to mitigate any negative externalities arising therein.
Understand from a clinical perspective how to engage with families of overweight or obese children to create positive health outcomes.
Share examples of effective whole-of-community initiatives to prevent or reverse childhood obesity and discuss methods for scaling up such interventions.
Discuss existing government interventions in light of preceding discussions and identify areas for concerted policy lobbying.
Public Health Professionals
USDA Food and Nutrition Service Professionals
State Health and Human Services Professionals
Drugs & R & D Medical Devices Manufacturing Companies
Basic Clinical Research Scientists & Students
Metabolic & Bariatric Surgeons
Integrated Health Professionals
Registered Dieticians & Nutritionists
Yoga & Fitness Professionals
Obesity & Endocrinology Associations and Societies
BMI Training Institutes
Media and advertising experts
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion professionals
Community religious leaders
Academics and Researchers
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