A new paper published in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine describes priorities and next steps for enhancing measurement tools and using high-quality measures in research to address the childhood obesity epidemic. The paper, “Advancing Measurement to Address Childhood Obesity: Results of 3 Workshops,” arises from a series of workshops held in 2019 and early 2020 by the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) and funded by The JPB Foundation. Since its inception, a key priority of NCCOR has been to promote the use of high quality, standardized measures across surveillance, epidemiology, and intervention research related to childhood obesity.
The series of three workshops focused on measurement of individual behaviors; environmental influences; and policy influences related to diet, physical activity, sedentary behavior, and sleep. Each workshop focused on high-risk populations and communities. A white paper series that describes each workshop individually is available on the NCCOR website: www.nccor.org/projects/measurement-workshop-series/.
In this paper, the authors, whom are all members of NCCOR, describe common challenges and opportunities that emerged across the three workshops. The workshops identified six major categories for action including 1) develop new measures; 2) review what is known and maximize cross-sectoral collaboration; 3) build measurement tools, guidance, and data resources; 4) enhance capacity, dissemination, and collaboration; 5) develop research methods, approaches, and enhanced linkage; and 6) expand data collection, research, and publication. Within these categories, workshop attendees identified 73 specific actions, all of which are listed in the paper. Some actions include considering how behaviors vary across a 24-hour day, identifying metrics from housing and transportation sectors that are well developed and could be useful for community health, and creating a roadmap for cross-domain measure selection and adaptation.
The workshops have already sparked discussions within NCCOR and member organizations for initiatives related to childhood obesity. For example, NCCOR has updated its Measures Registry and Catalogue of Surveillance Systems with measures for Birth-24 months and relevant surveillance data sets focused on the social determinants of health. NCCOR also developed a new decision tree to provide guidance to address measure adaptation for high-risk populations; this resource is available on NCCOR’s website: www.nccor.org/decision-tree. Next steps should include additional efforts to advance the quality of measurement for surveillance, epidemiology, and intervention research.
The National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) brings together four of the nation’s leading research funders—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)—to accelerate progress in reducing childhood obesity in America.