Last Spring, after attending an Institute of Medicine meeting on Childhood Obesity, I wrote about fronts and Heroes in the Health Attention War. Arguing that if we were going to do anything about long-term patient engagement around health and influencing healthy decisions, we had to start with habits and getting attention at an early age. Attention is the first step towards long-term behavior change.
At that time, I was happy to see the The Ad Council, who has been so successful in campaigns around littering and drunk driving, was working to get attention around childhood obesity to some specific communities. Advertising, after all, is all about directing attention, the necessary first step towards new behavior change. Meanwhile, some school districts were using the ideas behind behavioral economics to influence healthy food choices in schools, which continue to show success.
Today, I’m happy to report that something – or many things – have been working. Via the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) a JAMA Report “shows that that obesity prevalence among 2 to 5 year olds has dropped by approximately 40 percent in eight years.” This is truly outstanding progress. This is the most important age group to address as habits formed here can remain very hard to break later in life.
RWJF goes on to say “After decades of seemingly endless bad news about obesity, our collective efforts over the last several years show that we as a nation are finally moving in the right direction. Of course we can’t stop now.”
Also encouraging, they mention a report yesterday by “Let’s Move” declaring , “Nine out of ten schools across the country are certified to meet healthier lunch standards, and all schools with 40 percent of students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch will soon be able to provide healthier, free meals to all of their students.”
Let’s continue to build on this progress, getting attention and enabling smarter choices around the problem that eventually became our nation’s health care crisis.