Reviews

Surveillance Systems to Track and Evaluate Obesity Prevention Efforts

Abstract

To address the obesity epidemic, the public health community must develop surveillance systems that capture data at levels through which obesity prevention efforts are conducted. Current systems assess body mass index (BMI), diet, and physical activity behaviors at the individual level, but environmental and policy-related data are often lacking. The goal of this review is to describe US surveillance systems that evaluate obesity prevention efforts within the context of international trends in obesity monitoring, to identify potential data gaps, and to present recommendations to improve the evaluation of population-level initiatives. Our recommendations include adding environmental and policy measures to surveillance efforts with a focus on addressing underserved populations, harmonizing existing surveillance systems, including more sensitive measures of obesity outcomes, and developing a knowledgeable workforce. In addition, the widespread use of electronic health records and new technologies that allow self-quantification of behaviors offers opportunities for innovative surveillance methods.

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