The ORSC is actively seeking public and private partners for the development and implementation of a Global Multilevel Platform to Address Childhood Obesity. The ORSC is engaging in dialogues with major professional and funding organizations to find ways to collaborate in generating long-term solutions to the childhood obesity epidemic. The following is a brief description of the Global Multilevel Platform.
Global Multilevel Platform to Address Childhood Obesity
Obesity is a growing epidemic around the world. Yet, prevention efforts to date have had difficulty in turning the tide. To a great extent, this result is due to the arduous task of changing the way we eat, move, and live. Indeed, obesity is both a biological and a social problem and must be considered as a function of these larger contexts. At the population level, its development stems from the combination of biological susceptibilities and socio-environmental changes that have shaped society and lifestyle today. These powerful biological and contextual forces often make eating and exercise beyond an individual’s rational control. Therefore, the solution to the obesity epidemic has to take into account all this complexity by understanding the biological, socio-cultural, environmental, and policy factors (and their interplay) which regulate behavior and by designing interventions that impact these multiple spheres collectively.
There is a critical need to find ways to operationalize this multilevel, or “systems,” thinking in research. In this regard, a global platform can be a powerful force to coalesce and mobilize actors from different sectors of society and to drive the thinking from theory into action (see Figure (PDF - 15 KB) for illustration of how a global platform could function in this respect). At the global level, such a platform encompasses three arms: Research on cross-level drivers of food and physical activity; translation of research into policy; and capacity building for both research and policy translation. There are feedback loops across these three realms. For example, the identification of policy domains that can be impacted can drive research questions, which in turn, generate the evidence necessary for such policy actions. Capacity building is critical to the establishment of a multilevel, systems science in complex public health problems such as childhood obesity. Capacity building drives both research and policy translation, and is enhanced, in turn, when both research and policy actions progress. Ultimately, all three arms are required to yield substantial and sustainable impact on childhood obesity and related health at the population level.
Global Multilevel Platform Aims
To leverage resources and coordinate a synergistic, multilevel, or systems approach to childhood obesity research by:
- Investigating questions that link biological, socio-cultural, environmental, and policy drivers of food and physical activity behavior and that provide solutions that impact on these multiple drivers;
- Investing in research that will have an impact on multiple domains of policy, the environment, and individuals that enable healthy diet and physical activity;
- Building human and infrastructural capacity for both research and policy translation.
Key Motivations for Global Multilevel Platform
The NICHD intends to use a global multilevel platform for the following reasons:
- Obesity is a global epidemic and is a major risk factor of chronic diseases worldwide. The impact on economic security as a result of obesity and related chronic diseases demands greater investment and leadership than current levels in chronic disease prevention globally.
- Obesity is not solely a biological issue and must be addressed in the greater context of societal and economic wellbeing.
- A multilevel platform for childhood obesity research can integrate existing research efforts and enhance international advocacy work by generating new evidence applicable to prevention strategies at the societal level.
- A coordinated platform is needed to increase the quantity and quality of multilevel actors in both research and policy translation.
- This platform can enlarge the pool of resources needed to address childhood obesity by coalescing and leveraging interested parties.
Glossary of Focal Issues
Depending on the context and audience for the communication of the Global Multilevel Platform, different terms can be used to effectively frame the focal issue of the message. We encourage the partners in the Global Multilevel Platform to exercise flexibility in framing the childhood obesity issue while emphasizing the multilevel or systems framework needed to address the issue. Some examples of key terms are:
- Fetal programming
- Chronic disease prevention
- Child health
- Healthy weight solutions
- Economic cost reduction
- Active environment building
Anticipated Outcomes of the Global Multilevel Platform Partnership
- Periodic evaluation of the Global Multilevel Platform progress by monitoring the collaborating organizations’ activities (research, capacity building or policy translation) pertinent to the implementation of the Global Multilevel Platform goals, and
- Dissemination of new evidence pertaining to multilevel determinants of and interventions in childhood obesity among platform partners and to the scientific and policymaking communities, where appropriate.
Agreements with Partner Organizations
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention