• Report Stakes Path to Better Health Through Nutrition

    Family Physician Offers Suggestions for Childhood Obesity

    September 14, 2022, 9:00 a.m. News Staff — In preparation for this month’s historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health, the task force charged with informing the Biden administration has produced a report aimed at ending hunger and food insecurity, improving public health through advances in nutrition, and reducing the incidence of diet-related diseases.


    As September is also National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, it’s important to note that the report recommends many actions designed specifically to help infants and children — which is especially important given the increased rates of overweight and obesity in children and adolescents in the United States over the past few decades.

    “This report highlights the important, and often overlooked, role that nutrition has with health,” said Jennifer Buckley, M.D., a member of the AAFP’s Commission on Health of the Public and Science, and president of the Rhode Island AFP. “It is addressing the many reasons that people are unable to access healthy nutrition and ways that those barriers can be overcome.”

    “Family physicians work on the front line of health care and within our communities,” Buckley added. “We want to prevent disease before it happens and recognize the impacts that social determinants of health have on our patients. Having the knowledge and time to discuss ways that our patients can access healthier nutrition that fits into their lifestyle, budget and resources is paramount.”

    Recommended Action

    The report makes 30 policy recommendations with goals that include making food more accessible and affordable, better integrating nutrition and health, helping people make healthy food choices, and extending research on nutrition and food security.

    Story Highlights

    More than a dozen of the recommendations could improve child health and nutrition by helping individual consumers, households and communities.

    At least four could directly improve the health and nutrition of infants and children by

    • making it easier to join and use programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children;
    • expanding and improving nutrition education through existing federal programs;
    • increasing the marketing of foods that align with federal dietary guidelines to children and other populations with disproportionate rates of diet-related chronic conditions, and reducing the marketing of foods that do not; and
    • better promoting human milk as the premier source of infant nutrition.

    Other recommendations that could help children and adolescents call for improved

    • education and translation of the evidence that connects food and nutrition with health outcomes, and
    • resiliency, accessibility and nutritional quality of the food supply.

    What Family Physicians Can Do

    While the task force report addresses health and nutrition for people of all ages, Buckley gave fellow family physicians advice to help meet the needs of their younger patients.

    “Family physicians should be screening for food insecurity, educating our patients/families/guardians about what healthy nutrition is, and providing resources to address barriers like finances, storage, affordable housing, etc.,” said Buckley, who also serves as the family medicine/obstetrics director in the Department of Family Medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence, R.I.

    “We should really consider using the words health, nutrition and moving your body, especially for children and adolescents, so we are promoting healthy behaviors and a healthy body image rather than fixating on weight and BMI,” Buckley continued. “These discussions should take place at least annually at well visits and should be done for all patients regardless of their BMI.”

    Buckley said family physicians also could be valuable partners of local organizations to help ensure that children have opportunities to be physically active and can access healthy food.

    AAFP Member Resources

    The Academy has several tools members can use to assist patients who have overweight and obesity, including clinical guidelines and practice resources, a collection of nutrition articles from American Family Physician, screening guides for social needs and the Neighborhood Navigator, which connects patients with local social resources.

    Familydoctor.org, meanwhile, contains a wealth of patient information on childhood overweight and obesity, along with articles on body image and self-esteem, healthy habits for reducing a child’s screen time and the importance of developing good nutrition habits early in life.

    White House Conference Coming Soon

    The White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health — the first of its kind in more than a half-century — will be livestreamed on Sept. 28.

    The task force is encouraging family physicians and others to host satellite events in the days leading up to the conference to increase awareness and discuss community-level action.