A component fund of the Upper Valley Region of New Hampshire Charitable Foundation

HarvardScience: Targeting Childhood Obesity Early

This is the second installment in a three-part Harvard Medical School series on childhood obesity.

With childhood obesity now affecting 17 percent of American children, the nation is rallying around the concept that serious action is required. In 2010, President Barack Obama established the first Task Force on Childhood Obesity, aimed at reducing the rate of such obesity to just 5 percent by 2030.

Although many of the plan’s 70 recommendations focus on approaches such as improving access to healthy, affordable foods; increasing physical activity; and empowering parents to make smart nutrition choices, a large chapter of the report is dedicated to reducing the risk of childhood obesity early in life. Since the president released his Task Force Call to Action, two Institute of Medicine (IOM) reports have emphasized the need for early interventions to prevent obesity.

That’s welcome news to researchers like Matthew Gillman, Elsie Taveras (who is a member of the IOM Committee on Early Childhood Obesity Prevention Policies), and their colleagues at Project Viva, a longitudinal research study that examines a woman’s lifestyle and other factors during pregnancy and, after birth, the effects on her health and the health of her child.

Taveras is an associate professor of population medicine and pediatrics and co-director of the Obesity Prevention Program at Harvard Medical School’s (HMS) Department of Population Medicine. Gilman is a professor and director of the program.

Since 1998, the project has studied thousands of expectant mothers and their children, including more than 1,110 visits with 7-year-olds. Thanks in large part to Project Viva’s findings, a growing body of evidence has found that childhood obesity begins in utero, and early intervention can go a long way toward quelling the problem.

Read more…

Resource Type: 

2016 Children's Fund Grantees