While it was disappointing to see the most recent report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that Americans are still the most obese, by far, among OECD countries, I know that we are making progress in changing both behaviors and policy, and that progress will start to show.
At JSI, we believe it’s important to help individuals engage in healthy behaviors by promoting the creation of healthier environments. We have been working over the past decade to address America’s obesity epidemic and broader health issues by working with diverse organizations in communities across the country to create environments that support healthy behaviors.
Policymakers in several states are now getting on board. Recently we’ve helped to develop and evaluate large-scale initiatives to prevent obesity in Missouri, San Jose, California, Rochester, New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
Each of these initiatives includes a communications component to engage community members and help them understand what the initiative aims to achieve. In these projects, we encourage people to take steps both in their individual lives and as advocates for a changed environment that supports individual efforts to choose healthy foods within their budgets and incorporate physical activity each day.
To make the large-scale progress that we obviously need to make on this issue, it’s critical that more people advocate for changes resulting in environments that enable healthy choices.
Parents can have a voice and exert a huge influence by speaking to school administrators. They need to find out how much physical education and recess their children get at school and advocate for more daily physical activity.
Employees need to speak to employers and ask for healthier vending options and food in the cafeteria, and biking and walking options.
Residents need to talk to their local leaders and push for street and sidewalk improvements, better lighting and park clean-ups.
I think many people do not understand the significant impact they can have just by speaking up. Let’s start speaking up now, to see significant improvement in the next biennial OECD report.