Childhood obesity is a major health issue and a prominent chronic health condition for children in the United States (U.S.), caused by a multitude of factors. Most existing models of childhood obesity prevention have not worked, yielding little to no effect on improving weight status or the proximal health behaviors most attributed to obesity risk: nutritional intake, physical activity, sedentary behaviors, and sleep. There is an urgent need for new approaches to prevent health disparities that are responsive to impacts of economic inequality on healthy child growth in marginalized populations. In this Short Commentary, a social justice update is provided to motivate a new generation of research that promotes equitable and healthy child growth under present-day social, economic, and political circumstances. Social work-specific research and policy recommendations are provided to guide future research that targets underlying social and economic determinants of weight-related health disparities in childhood. Recommendations include research on cross-disciplinary metrics to better capture reductions in health disparities and the development and testing of policy and system interventions that address structural issues and strengthen health resources in marginalized communities. Progress in reducing disparities in childhood obesity will likely remain inhibited until recommendations from social work research are incorporated to strengthen existing medical and public health models and redirect the childhood obesity epidemic toward equitable, healthy child growth.
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Schuler, Brittany R.; Vazquez, Christian E.; and O'Reilly, Nicole. (2023). "From Childhood Obesity Risk to Healthy Growth in the U.S.: A 10-Year Social Work Research & Policy Update". Preventive Medicine Reports, 31, 102071. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pmedr.2022.102071