In 2002, the IOM was charged by Congress with developing a prevention-focused action plan to reduce the number of obese children in the US.
After analyzing behavioral, social, cultural and other environmental factors involved in childhood obesity, the IOM released a report in 2005 entitled "Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance," which identified approaches for obesity prevention efforts and put forth recommendations for a variety of sectors, including the government, industry and schools.
The IOM, a nonprofit organization that provides science-based advice on matters of biomedical science, medicine, and health, is now building on its previous work by initiating a study to assess progress in Childhood obesity prevention efforts.
Through its Food and Nutrition Board, the institute has appointed a 13-member committee, which includes experts in child health, obesity and the food industry, to conduct the study.
The committee has already conducted three regional symposia last year, aimed at promoting the findings and recommendations of the original IOM report.
The symposia also acted as a platform to initiate dialogues that highlight recommended practices for schools, communities and industry, as well as identifying assets and barriers to move forward with obesity prevention efforts.
These involved initiatives to make it easier for all families to have access to healthful and nutritious foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as ways in which schools can be encouraged to provide healthy products.
The full results of the study are due to be released in the fall of 2006.
The IOM's initiative forms part of the nation wide efforts to combat the growing obesity epidemic, which is leading to worrying levels of related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
The American Heart Association recently released nutritional guidelines for children, underlining that arteriosclerosis begins at a young age, and that those who follow a poor diet and take too little exercise may already have a build-up of plaque in the arteries by adolescence.
Furthermore, type 2 Diabetes, which used to be known as adult onset diabetes, is now increasingly being diagnosed in kids, adding to the cardiovascular risk profile of children.
Children's obesity has gained significant attention in the health care and child welfare arenas over the past five years. In 2002, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) cited that 16 percent of children aged 6-11 were overweight, with the same percentage holding true for 12-19 year olds.
Worldwide over 22 million children under five are severely overweight. Experts say junk food and low exercise levels, combined with the popularity of computer games and television, are behind the growing obesity rates.