The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has issued a recommendation statement advising clinicians to screen children ages 6 and older for obesity and to refer them for intensive counseling and behavior treatment if warranted. USPSTF bases its guidance “on a systematic review of the evidence of the benefits and harms and an assessment of the net benefit of the service.” In an update to its 2005 guidelines for screening children and adolescents, USPSTF reportedly claims that treating obese kids can help them lose weight only if rigorous diet, activity and behavior counseling are involved.

According to its latest study, the expert panel found “adequate evidence that multicomponent, moderate- to high-intensity behavioral interventions” for obese children can “effectively yield short-term (up to 12 months) improvements in weight status.” As USPSTF Chair Ned Calonge told a news source, the group realizes that most pediatricians are not equipped to offer the necessary treatment and that it may be hard to find or afford. He said the recommendations showcase scientific evidence about program efficacy and “not whether or not those services are currently available.” See Pediatrics, January 18, 2010; Associated Press, January 19, 2010.

In a related development, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Dairy Council and National Football League (NFL) have launched a “Fuel Up to Play 60” campaign aimed at fighting childhood obesity by encouraging better food choices and 60 minutes of physical activity each day. According to a January 15, 2010, USDA press release, “this unprecedented partnership will help educate our youth about steps they can and should take to lead healthy lives.” Dairy farmers have reportedly committed $250 million over the next five years to the program, which “taps the power of the NFL and its teams, players and physical activity programming to add recognition and value for students.” More than 60 percent of the nation’s 96,000 private and public schools have enrolled in the program.

Meanwhile, first lady Michelle Obama reportedly told the U.S. Conference of Mayors that she plans to launch a major initiative in February to combat childhood obesity because “the statistics never fail to take my breath away.” The initiative will apparently include a partnership among federal government, local officials, and nonprofit and business leaders to provide more nutritious foods in schools, more opportunities for kids to be physically active and better community access to affordable, healthful food. See USA Today, January 20, 2010.

About The Author

For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.