“Any community and, really, any person can be the spark needed for change,” says Rebecca Bunnell, acting director of the Division of Community Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The federal agency’s blueprint for reversing the nation’s obesity epidemic includes 24 recommended strategies that communities can follow that, some evidence suggests, may help make a change. They include:
Increase availability of healthier food and beverage choices, and restrict less healthy options, in public service venues. Make fruits, vegetables, and water more available in afterschool programs, child care centers, parks, playgrounds, and swimming pools, city and county buildings, prisons, and juvenile
Institute smaller portion-size options in public service venues. Limit advertisements of less healthy foods and beverages. Increase the amount of physical activity in physical education programs in schools.
Enhance infrastructure supporting bicycling. Create bike lanes, shared-use paths, and routes on existing and new roads, and provide bike racks in the vicinity of commercial and other public spaces.
Enhance infrastructure supporting walking. Improve sidewalks, footpaths, walking trails, and pedestrian crossings.
Enhance personal safety in areas where residents are or could be physically active. Safety considerations affect parents’ decisions to allow their children to play and walk outside. Increase police presence, decrease the number of abandoned buildings and homes, and improve street lighting.
Enhance traffic safety in areas where residents are or could be physically active — lack of safe places to walk, run, and bicycle as a result of real or perceived traffic hazards can deter children and adults from being physically active. Engineer streets for lower speeds or retrofit existing streets with traffic calming measurements (e.g., speed tables and traffic circles).
Source: MMWR Recommended Community Strategies and Measurements to Prevent Obesity in the United States, July 2009.
Kay Lazar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKayLazar.