Multiple nutritional, behavioral, and genetic factors associated with obesity, and the role that national policy can play in helping combat the obesity problem facing our population, will be examined by Maureen Storey, director of Center for Food and Nutrition Policy (CFNP) at Virginia Tech and Richard Forshee, associate director of CFNP and director of research, during a session at the American Public Health Association's (APHA) 132nd Annual Meeting & Exposition from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 9, at the Washington Convention Center, 801 Mount Vernon Place, N.W.

The session is sponsored by the Built Environment Institute (BEI), an organization developed by APHA to assist in an effort to combine planning, design and lifestyle choices prescribed for healthy and sustainable living and more human-focused growth. BEI's aim is to provide balanced review and discussion of current scientific methods, findings and conclusions, aid government policy development and suggest future targeted research.

"There is a great deal of science and policy debate around the issue of obesity, which is not only a problem here in the United States, but a world-wide concern. Policymakers have been bombarded with solutions and quick-fix ideas based on some good science, some not-so-good science and a lot of untested hypotheses," Storey said.

Storey and Forshee's research has shown the importance of increasing physical activity and decreasing sedentary behavior in order to maintain a healthy weight. CFNP is putting this research into action as the official affiliate for Virginia on the Move™ and DC on the Move™. These programs work throughout the Virginia and Washington to encourage individuals to become more active and make modest, long-term changes in their diet to prevent weight gain.

According to Storey, "We need to come up with some good practical solutions rather than knee-jerk reactions to solve this complex issue."

Storey suggests the following:

Institute policies to reinstate physical education into elementary, middle, and high schools

Create an integrated program of reading, math, science, and critical thinking skills in schools to help assure that every child who graduates from eighth grade has the skills to read and understand nutrition labels and make smart choices about diet and portion sizes

Develop policies that support the implementation and critical evaluation of healthy eating and active living programs such as America on the Move™, a new health initiative that promotes enjoyable life-long physical activity and healthy eating. Programs like this also need to be measured for their effectiveness in stopping unhealthy weight gain

Establish a national long-term tracking study to follow physical activity and eating habits over a person's lifetime and make those data available for research

The obesity issue is complex, Storey said, and will only be solved when all the disciplines including government, the food industry, transportation, departments of education, parks and recreation, the insurance industry, healthcare providers including hospitals, wellness programs, HMOs, and community planners can work together on a long-term approach.

The Center for Food and Nutrition Policy (CFNP) is an independent research and education center affiliated with Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) and is located in Alexandria, Virginia. The mission of CFNP is to advance rational, science-based food and nutrition policy. Through its research, outreach and teaching programs, CFNP examines complex and often contentious issues facing government policymakers, regulators, agribusinesses, and food manufacturers. CFNP is recognized as a center of excellence in food and nutrition policy by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Virginia Tech has fostered a growing partnership with the greater metropolitan Washington D.C. community since 1969. Today, the university's presence in the National Capital Region includes graduate programs and research centers in Alexandria, Falls Church, Leesburg, Manassas, and Middleburg. In addition to supporting the university's teaching and research mission, Virginia Tech's National Capital Region has established collaborations with local and federal agencies, businesses, and other institutions of higher education.