Yesterday the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a “progress report” on fighting childhood obesity in America (click here to read it, or click here to watch yesterday’s hour-long presentation), and the news wires are burning up. Most impressive about the new report is that, despite being commissioned by the let’s-fight-obesity-like-tobacco crowd at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, it places strong emphasis on the role of physical activity in promoting good health.

In particular, the IOM committee took the Bush administration to task for killing the funding of the federal VERB program, which “claimed it led to a 30 percent increase in exercise among the pre-teenagers it reached,” the Associated Press reported this morning. Considering the various scientific findings indicating that caloric intake among the young has not increased in the last several years, while physical activity has dropped like a stone, this might have been one of those rare government initiatives that did more good than harm.

Recommendations like those made by the IOM’s committee fly in the face of the more paternalistic demands made by the would-be fat-taxers at the World Health Organization (WHO). The panel’s praise for the physical activity promotion campaign directly contradicts the claim made by WHO’s Robert Beaglehole, who was quoted yesterday: “Let’s be very clear — the answer to this epidemic is not going to come from physical activity.”

Naturally, the self-appointed “food police” at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) took the occasion of the report to go nuclear. Margo Wootan, CSPI’s chief cupcake crusher, said “the current national response is like putting a Band-Aid on a brain tumor … We need a whole shift in thinking about how often to eat, what to eat and how much to eat.”

As a report in USA TODAY indicates, however, the Big Brother so adored by CSPI isn’t likely the man for the job. Instead, it looks like Father, and, even more so, Mother:

Obesity begins at home.

That’s the conclusion of nutrition experts who are sorting through a parade of studies released this summer that shows children in all age groups in the USA are gaining too much weight – even babies. And those experts are laying the lion’s share of the responsibility on parents, many of whom also are heavy …

Children say they depend on their parents for the ABCs of good health: 71% say they get information about how to be healthy from their mothers, according to a survey of 1,487 children, ages 8 to 18, conducted for the America on the Move Foundation. And Dad is the resource for 43% of the children.