HealthDay News — Simulations demonstrate that an excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) would be the most effective policy for reducing childhood obesity, according to researchers.
Nearly one in three children aged 2 to 19 years were obese or overweight in 2009 to 2010, reported Alyson H. Kristensen, MPH, of the Partnership for Prevention in Washington, D.C., and colleagues.
“States and localities are increasingly using laws, regulations, and other policy tools to promote healthy eating and physical activity,” wrote the researchers in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. “However, federal policies can reach larger populations and fund programs that benefit populations at risk for obesity, and thus play an essential role in improving public health.”
To estimate the projected impact of federal policies on the prevalence of childhood obesity after 20 years of implementation, the investigators used a microsimulation analysis of three policies. After-school physical activity programs, a $0.01/ounce SSB excise tax, and a ban on child-directed fast-food television advertisements were the three policies chosen out of 26 recommended plans.
Among children aged 6 to 12 years, the microsimulation model predicted that obesity would be reduced the most by after-school activity programs (1.8%), and the least by a ban on child-directed fast-food television advertising (0.9%).
An excise tax on SSBs would reduce obesity the most among adolescents aged 13 to 18 years (2.4%). Projections suggested that all three policies would reduce childhood obesity more among blacks and Hispanics than among whites. The SSB tax would have the greatest effect on reducing racial disparities in the prevalence of childhood obesity.
“All three policies would reduce childhood obesity prevalence by 2032. However, a national $0.01/ounce SSB excise tax is the best option,” concluded the researchers.