When it comes to worldwide health concerns, childhood obesity only continues to grow. Without a cure, prevention strategies rely on making some drastic changes to the environment our children grow up in. With an emphasis on involving the entire community, a French program called EPODE serves as a beneficial model for promoting the necessary changes.
In 2008, the obesity epidemic weighed down the US healthcare system with a whopping $147,000,000,000 price tag. That was almost 6 years ago, and the cost is only going up.
Between 2009 & 2010, 37% of American adults and 17% of youths suffered from obesity.
It’s nearly 2014. The road we’re speeding down will bring over half of American adults into the obesity circle by 2030.
Without any effective therapies or medications to treat obesity in the long-term, management strategies worldwide have turned to prevention and to our children. A statistic reporting that nearly 60% of obese children will continue to suffer through adulthood makes it all too clear why the focus is on the next generation.
But among all the strategies, arguably none has found greater success than the French methodology EPODE—an acronym translating to Together Let’s Prevent Childhood Obesity.
In a new US Endocrinology publication, Dr. Jean-Michael Borys—EPODE founder and director—and his team highlight the strengths of their approach.
And what does it boil down to?
Getting the community involved.
Previous programs focused their attention on the schools. But these programs did little to reduce the rates of childhood obesity. While kids up to 12 years old may be the target age group, these children don’t exist inside an elementary school bubble. Involving their families becomes a top priority.
But even still, while families may reign supreme in the homes and teachers in the schools, a lack of authority over the town or city remains.
That brings us to political representation.
Political support brings regulation over urban development, catering standards, and further control over school management. Ultimately, the trick is to modify the local environment so easy behaviors and default responses become healthy behaviors and smart responses. Without political awareness, bringing about the necessary changes to promote that healthy environment isn’t easy.
By further involving stakeholders from NGOs, catering services, and the local media, the EPODE model brings the obesity issue to the forefront for the entire community.
While obesity rates rose in neighboring areas, EPODE programs in eight French towns dropped obesity rates by 9.12% between 2005 and 2009. Currently, 25 programs in 15 countries have adopted the EPODE methodology, getting Mom and Dad, your teachers, your mayor, and your local journalists on board to change the environment.
So why limit the focus?
Dr. Borys and the team believe EPODE is an effective model for more than combatting childhood obesity. Its applicability extends beyond weight issues to include programs promoting other lifestyle behavior changes.
Hear that tobacco and alcohol-related diseases? You’re next.
Borys, J-M., Valdeyron, L., Levy, E., Vinck, J., Edell, D., Walter, L., Ruault du Plessis, H., Harper, P., Richard, P., Barriguette, A. 2013. EPODE—A Model for Reducing the Incidence of Obesity and Weight-related Comorbidities. US Endocrinology Vol. 9:1, p.32-36.