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New Strategic Vision for CDC’s Obesity Division


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is an agency familiar to Leaders. With such large scope and budget, it’s not often we get a glimpse inside.

The Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity (DNPAO) is the department of the CDC most relevant to Leaders. Dr. Janet Collins is the director of the DNPAO, which recently launched a new three-year strategic vision. It was a project six months in the making, and last week Inside Track was able to talk to Dr. Collins about it.

While continuing its work to provide easy access to healthy foods and beverages, DNPAO is increasing its work on the promotion of healthy choices in cafeterias, grocery stores, restaurants and vending. 

“It’s essential to have access to healthy choices such as fruits and vegetables,” Dr. Collins said. “But it’s also important that we increase consumer selection of these healthy products. And that brings in the role of pricing, placement and promotion. Access is a necessary but insufficient condition for a healthy diet. We need to use proven marketing techniques to make the healthy choice the affordable and desirable choice.”

In addition to work on nutrition and breastfeeding, physical activity remains a central focus of the new strategic plan with emphasis on safe places and opportunities to be active through community design. The 2014-2017 DNPAO strategic priorities include:

  • Strengthen state, tribal, local, and territorial public health to promote healthy eating and physical activity
  • Increase opportunities and incentives for physical activity in worksites
  • Make communities more walkable through transportation and community design planning
  • Improve nutrition, increase physical activity, decrease screen time, and support breastfeeding in early care and education settings
  • Increase breastfeeding support in hospitals, worksites, and communities
  • Promote food service guidelines in cafeterias, concessions, and vending
  • Increase healthy food and beverage purchases in restaurants, grocery stores, and markets
  • Promote healthy foods and beverages in K-12 schools (with the Department of Public Health School Health Branch)
  • Support healthy diets through micronutrient fortification and supplementation

In terms of childhood obesity, Dr. Collins applauded the work across the movement—including by many Leaders—to tighten nutrition and physical activity standards in child care and schools.

“That work is shaping the nutrition and activity environments for youth,” Dr. Collins said. “It’s critical that we start young by fostering enjoyment of play and a variety of healthy foods.”

Dr. Collins also encouraged Leaders to reach out to DNPAO if they have suggestions for partnership opportunities or ideas to support existing initiatives in the field.

“CDC works to provide science updates and technical assistance tools that are helpful to obesity prevention practitioners,” she said. “Feedback on what is helpful and what more is needed is always welcome.”

“The [] network is incredibly valuable due to the work of so many professionals across a range of settings and with diverse training and perspectives,” Dr. Collins said. “None of us has the ability to affect childhood obesity alone. Doing all you can in your setting with your leadership is so, so important.”