- LAST REVIEWED: 14 October 2016
- LAST MODIFIED: 22 April 2013
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756797-0086
- LAST REVIEWED: 14 October 2016
- LAST MODIFIED: 22 April 2013
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756797-0086
Obesity reflects a physiologically harmful excess of body fat, overall or accumulated in specific parts of the body. The obesity “epidemic” is characterized by trends that show increases in average body weight levels in populations at large and the consequent increases in the proportions of these populations whose weight levels fall into the upper part of the weight status distribution and who, therefore, meet the criteria for “overweight” or “obesity.” The significance of overweight and obesity relates to the associated increased risk for chronic diseases or risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart diseases, certain types of cancer, respiratory diseases, and musculoskeletal diseases, together with their disabling or fatal consequences. Obesity issues are, therefore, an important subset of a much larger set of issues related to the increasing dominance of chronic diseases not only in high-income countries such as the United States or the United Kingdom, but also in low- and middle-income countries. Like obesity treatment, the target of obesity prevention involves a balance of energy intake (from foods and beverages) and energy output (through various types of physical activity). In light of higher obesity prevalence rates, specific strategies to prevent the development of clinically significant overweight and obesity have been articulated separately from strategies to treat established obesity. This article takes a multidisciplinary perspective to identify books, scientific journals, evidence reviews, practice guidelines, and other resources relevant to understanding obesity prevention. Citations include resources that explain obesity prevention concepts and the social, economic, and public policy contexts for undertaking obesity prevention, highlighting controversies, and providing guidance on the evidentiary and methodological underpinnings for planning and evaluating interventions.
The impetus for large-scale efforts to prevent obesity begins with recognition that the problem affects whole populations and that clinically oriented treatment approaches do not address the constant influx of more people becoming obese. Also, the fact that obesity, once established, is very difficult to reverse adds to the rationale for preventing excess weight gain. The US Surgeon General’s 2001 Call to Action (Office of the Surgeon General 2001), the detailed technical report of the World Health Organization (WHO) (World Health Organization 2000) on the global obesity epidemic, and the overview of population approaches to obesity prevention for the American Heart Association (Kumanyika, et al. 2008) provide representative examples of the recognition of obesity as a public health problem and arguments for addressing it at a population level. With respect to children, the comprehensive review for the International Obesity Task Force (Lobstein, et al. 2004) and the Institute of Medicine’s Health in the Balance report (Koplan, et al. 2005) provide comprehensive overviews of obesity prevention issues in children. Publication of the Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health report (World Health Organization 2004) signaled a global commitment to taking population-level actions on chronic diseases and risk factors, including obesity.
Koplan, J. C. Liverman, V. A. Kraak, et al. 2005. Preventing childhood obesity: Health in the balance. Washington, DC: Institute of Medicine, National Academies Press.
This consensus study report, developed at the request of the US Congress, sets forth a national action plan for addressing the epidemic of childhood obesity in the United States. Recommendations are directed to government, industry, media, schools, communities, and families. The plan is bold in calling for comprehensive approaches that will lead to a “social transformation.”
Kumanyika, S. K., E. Obarzanek, N. Stettler, et al. 2008. Population-based prevention of obesity: The need for comprehensive promotion of healthful eating, physical activity, and energy balance: A scientific statement from American Heart Association Council on Epidemiology and Prevention, Interdisciplinary Committee for Prevention. Circulation 118.4: 428–464.
This comprehensive review highlights the need for population-oriented obesity prevention to prevent excess weight gain in children and adults and explains how such approaches differ from, but complement, clinical treatment approaches. Frameworks for identifying potential targets for environmental and policy changes and the types of intervention strategies that can be used to address these targets are presented.
Lobstein, T., L. Baur, and R. Uauy. 2004. Obesity in children and young people: A crisis in public health. Obesity Reviews 5.S1: 4–85.
Contributions by numerous experts provide an overview of the scope of the global problem of childhood obesity, raise awareness of the crisis it represents, and urge policymakers to take timely actions to address the problem. Sections address measurement issues, prevalence and trends, health outcomes, and treatment and management and emphasize the importance of prevention for both developed and developing countries.
Office of the Surgeon General. 2001. The Surgeon General’s call to action to prevent and decrease overweight and obesity. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office.
This US Public Health Service report, issued when Dr. David Satcher was the US Surgeon General, gave official federal government recognition to the epidemic of obesity in the United States and set forth some key principles for action. This was a forerunner of the Institute of Medicine report (Koplan, et al. 2005) that provided a more detailed national action plan.
World Health Organization. 2000. Obesity: Preventing and managing the global epidemic. Technical Report Series No. 894. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.
This World Health Organization expert consultation was the first official recognition of obesity as a global public health issue affecting not just high-income countries, but also low- and middle-income countries, where undernutrition also remains a major health and nutrition problem. This detailed report provides a comprehensive overview of obesity etiology, health consequences, treatment, and prevention considerations.
World Health Organization. 2004. Global strategy on diet, physical activity and health. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.
This strategy document provides the overarching policy guidance for member countries of the World Health Organization (WHO) with respect to dietary and physical activity patterns to prevent cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, and other noncommunicable diseases. This strategy marked the culmination of several WHO expert consultations and resolutions on these issues and is now in the implementation phase.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
How to Subscribe
Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.
- Access to Health Care
- Action Research
- Active Aging
- Active Living
- Adolescent Risk-Taking Behavior in the United States
- Advocacy, Public Health
- Agricultural Safety and Public Health
- Air Quality: Health Effects
- Air Quality: Indoor Health Effects
- Alcohol Availability and Violence
- Alternative Research Designs
- Ambient Air Quality Standards and Guidelines
- American Perspectives on Chronic Disease and Control
- Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)
- Asthma in Children
- Attachment as a Health Determinant
- Behavior Change Theory in Health Education and Promotion
- Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance
- Bicycling and Cycling Safety
- Birth and Death Registration
- Birth Cohort Studies
- Board of Health
- Built Environment and Health, The
- Business and Corporate Practices
- Cancer Communication Strategies in North America
- Cancer Prevention
- Cancer Screening
- Capacity Building
- Capacity Building for NCDs in LMICs
- Capacity-Building for Applied Public Health in LMIC: A US ...
- Cardiovascular Health and Disease
- Child Maltreatment
- Children, Air Pollution and
- Children, Injury Risk-Taking Behaviors in
- Children, Obesity in
- Citizen Advisory Boards
- Climate Change and Human Health
- Climate Change: Institutional Response
- Clinical Preventive Medicine
- Community Air Pollution
- Community Development
- Community Gardens
- Community Health Assessment
- Community Partnerships and Coalitions
- Community-Based Participatory Research
- Complexity and Systems Theory
- Definition of Health
- Dental Public Health
- Design and Health
- Dietary Guidelines
- Ecological Approaches
- Enabling Factors
- Environmental Laws
- Environmental Protection Agency
- Ethics of Public Health
- Evidence-Based Public Health Practice
- Family Planning Services and Birth Control
- Food Safety
- Food Security and Food Banks
- Food Systems
- Frail Elderly
- Functional Literacy
- Genomics, Public Health
- Geographic Information Systems
- Geography and Health
- Global Health
- Global Health Diplomacy
- Global Health Promotion
- Guide to Community Preventive Services, The
- Health Administration
- Health Communication
- Health Disparities
- Health Education
- Health Impact Assessment
- Health in All Policies
- Health in All Policies in European Countries
- Health Literacy
- Health Literacy and Non-Communicable Diseases
- Health Measurement Scales
- Health Planning
- Health Promoting Hospitals
- Health Promotion
- Health Promotion Workforce Capacity
- Healthy People Initiative
- Hepatitis C
- High Risk Prevention Strategies
- Human Rights, Health and
- Immigrant Populations
- Immunization and Pneumococcal Infection
- Indigenous Peoples, Public Health and
- Indigenous Populations of North America, Australasia, and ...
- Indoor Air Quality Guidelines
- Internet Applications in Promoting Health Behavior
- Intersectoral Strategies in Low - Middle Income Countries ...
- Justice, Social
- Knowledge Translation and Exchange
- Knowledge Utilization and Exchange
- Law of Public Health in the United States
- Media Advocacy
- Mental Health
- Mental Health Promotion
- Migrant Health
- Motor Vehicle Injury Prevention
- Multi-Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis
- National Association of Local Boards of Health
- National Public Health Institutions
- Needs Assessment
- Obesity Prevention
- Occupational Cancers
- Occupational Safety and Health
- Oral Health Equity for Minority Populations in the United ...
- Ottawa Charter
- Parenting and Work
- Parenting Skills and Capacity
- Participatory Action Research
- Patient Decision Making
- Pesticide Exposure and Pesticide Health Effects
- Physical Activity and Exercise
- Physical Activity Promotion
- Polio Eradication in Pakistan
- Population Aging
- Population Determinants of Unhealthy Foods and Beverages
- Population Health Objectives and Targets
- Precautionary Principle
- Prenatal Health
- Program Evaluation in American Health Education
- Program Planning and Evaluation
- Public Health, History of
- Public Health Surveillance
- Public-Private Partnerships in Public Health Research and ...
- Public-Private Partnerships to Prevent and Manage Obesity ...
- Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment
- Radiological and Nuclear Emergencies
- Randomized Controlled Trials
- Real World Evaluation Strategies
- Reducing Obesity-Related Health Disparities in Hispanic an...
- Rural Health in the United States
- Safety, Patient
- Sex Education in HIV/AIDS Prevention
- Skin Cancer Prevention
- Smoking Cessation
- Social Determinants of Health
- Social Epidemiology
- Social Marketing
- Statistics in Public Health
- Systems in the United States, Public Health
- Systems Theory in Public Health
- Traditional, Complementary, Alternative, and Integrative M...
- Translation of Science to Practice and Policy
- Traumatic Stress and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Tuberculosis among Adults and the Determinants of Health
- Unintentional Injury Prevention
- Urban Health
- Vaccine Hesitancy
- Violence Prevention
- Water Quality
- Water Quality and Water-Related Disease
- Weight Management in US Occupational Settings
- Worksite Health Promotion