Obesity and Related Health Conditions: A Call for Primary Prevention Strategies

Elise Miller, MEd

This month is the first-ever National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. The fact we even have to raise awareness on this debilitating condition is a sad reflection on the current health of our society, particularly our children’s. Even sadder yet is the fact that obesity is associated with a number of other diseases on the rise in younger and younger populations, including diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Nonetheless, children are being sent off for the new school year to try to learn, while continuing to eat foods infused with trans-fats, pesticides and agricultural antibiotics, to imbibe drinks from cans lined with BPA plastic (an endocrine disrupting chemical and likely obesogen – see CHE’s letter to First Lady Michelle Obama), and to sit for hours without adequate recess in classrooms known to have poor ventilation and mold. Not a pretty picture, I know. But I have a 5-year-old starting kindergarten at a public school this week, and believe me, all of these issues are very much on my mind. No doubt many of you as well as countless other parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and anyone who cares about children’s health and society’s future share these concerns.

Fortunately, a number of innovative thinkers and colleagues in different fields are trying to press for systemic ways to reduce the alarming increase in chronic diseases and disabilities and the resulting escalation in health care costs. Below I list a few events being held this month that are intended to highlight primary prevention and some promising public health interventions. Also feel free to check our online calendar for other webinars, conferences and workshops you may find of interest.

1) The American Medical Association, in partnership with Kaiser Permanente and Health Care Without Harm, are hosting a free webinar on Thursday September 9th at 5:00 p.m. Eastern on “Healthy Food in Healthcare: The Role for Healthcare in Food and Agriculture Policy.” 

2) Healthy Food Action, a new national effort launched by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, the Keep Antibiotics Working coalition and the Infectious Disease Society of America, is hosting its first webinar in a new series entitled “Superbugs, Super Problems: Agricultural Antibiotics and Emerging Infections” to be held Thursday September 16th. For more information, see IATP’s website

3) CHE is hosting a national partnership call, “Pediatric Integrative Health: Approaches to Optimizing ‘Whole Child’ Wellness“, on Tuesday September 21st at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. The speakers on this call will discuss the latest on children’s integrative health and emerging science regarding specific approaches to creating optimal environments for children to develop. Please note that these speakers will also be presenting at upcoming symposium, “Children First: Promoting Ecological Health for the Whole Child“, to be held October 1, 2010, at the University of California, San Francisco.

Finally, I wanted to mention that we have decided to change the name of our current working group “CHE Metabolic Syndrome” to “CHE Obesity.” The reason is two-fold: a) emerging research suggests that some common biological mechanisms and triggers are associated with symptoms of obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome; and b) obesity has become one of the most recognized health concerns in society today. We intend this new framing to encourage more robust consideration of environmental health science that is beginning to show that some of the same environmental factors may contribute to different health endpoints depending on a range of other influences. We also hope this new framing will increase the flow of information sharing and appropriate action to more effectively address these three different, but related health conditions. If you are already a member of the CHE Metabolic Syndrome working group, you will automatically be switched to CHE Obesity. If you wish to join the CHE Obesity working group, please send a request to CHE.

May our collective work this fall spawn significant and lasting improvement in human and ecological health.

With warm regards,


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