The United States lags behind other international plans to evaluate obesity prevention efforts, and the country needs to know whether these efforts are having their intended impact, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine. The committee that wrote the report concluded that more systematic and routine evaluations could help determine how well obesity prevention programs and policies are being implemented and which interventions work best. The committee also recommended specific national and community plans for evaluation of obesity prevention efforts.
Investment in obesity program and policy evaluation is too sporadic, presenting serious barriers to understanding the impact of interventions and the need for future investments, the committee said. Moreover, current data monitoring systems inadequately track progress of some programs, and such monitoring is needed at both the national and community levels. Although many monitoring systems exist, the national systems lack adequate leadership, coordination, infrastructure, guidance, accountability, and capacity. Furthermore, local communities do not have the necessary guidance, capacity, data, and resources for assessing the status of obesity, identifying prevention needs, monitoring obesity prevention actions, evaluating their short-term outcomes, and tracking their long-term effects on obesity reduction.
To guide future efforts to inform and improve obesity prevention at the national, state, and community levels, the committee designed separate but interdependent national and community obesity evaluation plans that prioritize activities and leverage existing resources. The plans provide frameworks for obtaining end-user input, choosing indicators and measures for data collection and analysis, and improving the evaluation structure -- specifically the success of policy and environmental strategies recommended in the 2012 IOM report Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention: Solving the Weight of the Nation.