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Commentary
Nov 2011

The Childhood Obesity EpidemicLessons for Preventing Socially Determined Health Conditions

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Departments of Public Health and Pediatrics and the Center for Obesity Research and Education, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2011;165(11):973-975. doi:10.1001/archpediatrics.2011.179

Between 2000 and 2010, there were almost 3 times as many publications in the Archives about childhood obesity as in the preceding 90 years of the journal's history. This reflected efforts to understand a child health problem that caught the public's attention because it was so common, visible, costly, and difficult to treat. Despite all the research on childhood obesity, we have not reversed the epidemic. One explanation may be that obesity, like all health conditions that are primarily socially determined, resists durable solutions until there is a change in societal norms and the values underlying those norms. The childhood obesity epidemic is just one symptom of our way of living. Reversing the epidemic may require that we apply a new approach to improving child health in the 21st century. One approach is to make societal changes to enhance human well-being rather than to prevent a particular symptom, such as childhood obesity. In the process, we may address obesity and other socially determined health conditions while preventing new ones from emerging.

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