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MONTREAL THINK TANK TAKES ON CHILDHOOD OBESITY

Experts in childhood obesity gathered 25 to 27 October 2006 at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, for what could be properly termed a high-powered brainstorming session to develop a “societal plan” against the worsening global epidemic of childhood obesity.

The plan is being spearheaded by the Global Prevention Alliance and five other principal medical nongovernmental organizations.

The formal title of the brainstorming was the “McGill Integrative Health Challenge Think Tank: Forging a Societal Action Plan in Preventing Childhood Obesity Around the World.”

Key presenters included World Health Organization Assistant Director-General for Non-Communicable Diseases and Mental Health Catherine Le Gales-Camus, American Heart Association President Robert Eckel, World Health Organization Commission on Social Determinants of Health Chairman Michael Marmot and Princeton University economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. The World Heart Federation was represented by Dr Elinor Wilson, past Vice-President and Executive Director of the Canadian Public Health Association.

Consensus for action

A critical mass of participants in the “Montreal Think Tank” called for a balance of market forces and government interventions that would stimulate demand for healthier foods along with physical environments that would facilitate and encourage physical activity.

The Think Tank culminated with the launch of what organizers called the “Montreal Call to Challenge ‘Business as Usual’ on Childhood Obesity” and the opening of a worldwide e-think tank to solicit ideas, encourage public feedback and broaden the fight.

Obesity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death. The vast majority of the deaths occur in poorer countries.

Childhood obesity advancing

The prevalence of childhood obesity has been growing at an alarming pace and by 2010 nearly 287 million children could be overweight or obese – nearly twice the number reported in 2000, according to the International Obesity TaskForce.

“This tragic and wholly preventable global pandemic of obesity has developed such a momentum that it can only be confronted successfully by tackling childhood obesity head on, as one of the most urgent strategic priorities for the whole of society,” said Prof. Philip James, who chairs the International Obesity TaskForce and the Presidential Council of the Global Prevention Alliance.

To read Global strategies to prevent childhood obesity: Forging a societal plan that works, the discussion paper prepared by the Global Prevention Alliance for the Montreal Think Tank, visit: www.iotf.org/documents/iotfsocplan251006.pdf

To watch video presentations of the Montreal Think Tank, visit: http://mediasite.campus.mcgill.ca/mediasite2/viewer/?cid=ab3935f8-3460-41d8-8954-385c51e52aff"

To learn more about the Montreal Call to Challenge ‘Business as Usual’ on Childhood Obesity” and how you could contribute to the debate about how to ameliorate the epidemic, visit: www.mcgill.ca/files/healthchallenge/Call_Full_Doc.pdf

To read the World Health Organization’s fact sheet about obesity and overweight, visit: www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs311/en/

To read the World Heart Federation’s latest fact sheet about obesity visit: www.worldheart.org/pdf/press.factsheets.obesity.worldwide.pdf

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