Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity hosted the Weight of the Nation conference in Washington, D.C. The conference drew more than 1,000 advocates, researchers, practitioners, and policy-makers from all levels of government. Attendees, including park professionals from across the country, gathered to report on new research, share best practices, and collect evidence-based strategies to accelerate progress in reversing the nation’s obesity epidemic.
NRPA’s Health and Wellness Advisory Panel, made up of 10 park professionals and researchers, and NRPA health and wellness staff attended the conference and convened to discuss the role of parks and recreation in obesity prevention. The Advisory Panel provides oversight and feedback, as well as subject-matter expertise to NRPA’s health and wellness programs, policies, and initiatives. In addition, NRPA had an exhibitor booth and a poster session illustrating the value that parks and recreation bring to promoting healthy lifestyles in communities.
Three major takeaways from the conference that you can be aware of include:
- Release of a report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), "Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention: Solving the Weight of the Nation." This report provides recommendations to speed progress in obesity prevention, including making physical activity an integral and routine part of life.
- Forecasts about obesity rates and related medical costs. Forty-two percent of Americans may end up obese by 2030 (up from 36% in 2010), and 11% could be severely obese, roughly 100 or more pounds over a healthy weight. Preventing obesity rates from increasing could save nearly $550 billion in medical expenditures over the next two decades.
- HBO’s obesity documentary. HBO has a four-part documentary series confronting America’s obesity epidemic.
A message heard throughout the conference was that local park and recreation agencies are critical in helping solve the obesity epidemic, making positive impacts in communities nationwide. Tune into the HBO obesity documentary which will examine communities that lack parks and highlight access to parks as important to the health of our country.
Zarnaaz Bashir is NRPA’sDirector of Strategic Health Initiatives.