By Chris Adams

Efforts by federal and state government to use public policy to mitigate the nation’s obesity crisis have been scattershot, with only anecdotal success.

That’s according to Laura Segal, a policy researcher with the nonprofit Trust for America’s Health, who led a group of National Press Foundation journalists though an overview of state and local policies. She’s both optimistic things might change and realistic they have a long way to go.

“We’ve seen the childhood obesity trends leveling off,” she said. “So the feeling is that something is going right. There have been some pockets of success.”

Segal provided a survey of actions on the state level, where roughly half of statehouses have taken steps to engage on the issue. Overall, she said:

  • Every state has a physical education requirement in its schools, but they are limited and not often enforced;
  • 17 states require physical activity or recess in schools;
  • 28 states have “shared use” policies, which open school facilities to community use;
  • 21 states require BMI or other health-related assessments of students.

She also pointed reporters to a few resources:

Her organization’s annual State of Obesity report, which details statistics and policies down to the state level.

A detailed breakdown on county health rankings, compiled by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation), that shows granular details on obesity and health at the local level.