The long-term returns of obesity prevention policies

April 2013, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the costs of proposed federal legislation over a 10-year timeframe. For policies and programs that have a long-term impact, the 10-year timeframe can account for many of the costs, but miss out on the savings.

This report from the Campaign to End Obesity concludes that widening that window to 75 years, which the CBO has done in other instances, could better account for all of the costs and savings attributable to various obesity prevention efforts. Because such programs would prevent obesity and related chronic conditions in the long run, they can help save money by reducing health care costs and increasing wages. The report identifies billions of dollars in potential savings that are attributable to four specific obesity prevention strategies, finding the highest potential for savings among women. The savings highlighted below are specific to women: Continue reading

Leveraging the power of design and design thinking for public health

Oct. 8, 2013, RWJF Blog

By Matthew Trowbridge

It is increasingly clear that solutions for our most pressing and challenging public health issues will ultimately hinge on designing environments that encourage healthy behavior choices by making them more available, economical, and enjoyable.

Traditional public health approaches are not perfectly suited to this task. For example, epidemiological studies allow us to measure the association between environmental design features such as parks or sidewalks and walking behavior, but these experimental data are generally insufficient to be either actionable by decision-makers or effective in prompting behavior change. As Jeff Speck, urban planner and theorist, observes in his recent book “Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time”:

“The pedestrian is an extremely fragile species, the canary in the coal mine of urban livability. Under the right conditions, this creature thrives and multiplies. But creating   those conditions requires attention to a broad range of criteria, some more easily         satisfied than others.” Continue reading

CDC releases new guide for collecting body mass index measurements

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity (DNPAO) recently released two new resources for health care providers called the “HL7 Height and Weight Report Implementation Guide” and the “IHE Quality, Research and Public Health Technical Framework Supplement for Healthy Weight.” The tools are designed to help practitioners transmit body mass index (BMI) data from electronic health record systems (EHRs) to public health surveillance systems so it can be used to assess progress in the fight against the childhood obesity epidemic.

Currently the process of capturing and communicating BMI data from provider offices to state health departments is largely inefficient and insufficient as it often requires the provider to enter data into more than one system or requires the development of custom databases. These limitations make it very difficult for agencies, communities, and states to evaluate progress in their childhood obesity prevention efforts. Continue reading

Report recommends specific national and community plans for evaluation of obesity prevention efforts

Aug. 2, 2013, News Medical

The United States lags behind other international plans to evaluate obesity prevention efforts, and the country needs to know whether these efforts are having their intended impact, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM). The committee that wrote the report concluded that more systematic and routine evaluations could help determine how well obesity prevention programs and policies are being implemented and which interventions work best. The committee also recommended specific national and community plans for evaluation of obesity prevention efforts.

Investment in obesity program and policy evaluation is too sporadic, presenting serious barriers to understanding the impact of interventions and the need for future investments, the committee said. Moreover, current data monitoring systems inadequately track progress of some programs, and such monitoring is needed at both the national and community levels. Although many monitoring systems exist, the national systems lack adequate leadership, coordination, infrastructure, guidance, accountability, and capacity. Furthermore, local communities do not have the necessary guidance, capacity, data, and resources for assessing the status of obesity, identifying prevention needs, monitoring obesity prevention actions, evaluating their short-term outcomes, and tracking their long-term effects on obesity reduction. Continue reading

New, free USDA education materials show children how to make healthful food choices

June 25, 2013, USDA Blog

Research shows that students with healthful eating patterns tend to do better in school, and it’s important that children begin learning about food and nutrition when they’re young. In support of that goal, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) recently released three, free sets of curriculum educators can use to empower children to make healthful food choices and develop an awareness of how fruits and vegetables are grown.

The Great Garden Detective Adventure” curriculum forthird and fourth grades includes 11 lessons, bulletin board materials, veggie dice, fruit and vegetable flash cards, and 10 issues of Garden Detective News for parents/caregivers. Kids will discover what fruits and vegetables are sweetest, crunchiest, and juiciest through investigations and fun experiences connecting the school garden to the classroom, school cafeteria, and home. Continue reading

New report highlights effects of USDA’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program in schools

A March 2013 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service’s Office of Research and Analysis explores new evaluation results of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP).

FFVP aims to increase fruit and vegetable consumption among students in the most economically challenged U.S. elementary schools by providing fresh fruits and vegetable to students outside of regular school meals. Continue reading

New resources from Active Living Research highlight new research on physical activity and children

Active Living Research (ALR), a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, has recently published three new research briefs that summarize the findings from research that focuses on children and physical activity.

The research briefs include:

  • Do Short Physical Activity Breaks in Classrooms Work? This brief summarizes the research on how programs that provide classroom physical activity breaks impact physical activity, academic performance, health and related factors in children. The focus is on activity breaks held in the classroom and it does not include physical education or recess.

To learn more about the latest promising approaches for preventing obesity, increasing children’s physical activity levels, and improving overall health, please visit ALR’s website.

School design guidelines to help promote healthy eating published in CDC journal

A newly available pilot tool made possible through an innovative collaboration between architects, schools, and scientists is part of a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to improve school environments for children’s health by engaging new partners.

The Healthy Eating Design Guidelines for School Architecture provides practitioners in architecture and public health and school system decision makers with a practical set of spatially organized and theory-based strategies for making school environments more conducive to learning about and practicing healthy eating behaviors. Continue reading

Food and beverage marketing to children and adolescents: Limited progress by 2012, recommendations for the future

For decades, American children and adolescents have been surrounded by advertising and marketing for unhealthy foods and beverages. While the food and beverage industry, as well as local and national levels of government, have started to recognize the role that food and beverage marketing plays in driving the childhood obesity epidemic, American youths are still exposed to a disproportionate amount of marketing for unhealthy products across a variety of media.

This research review from Healthy Eating Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, summarizes the academic and industry literature on trends in food marketing to children and adolescents, as well as policy initiatives undertaken to address the contribution of marketing practices to the childhood obesity epidemic, from March 2011 to May 2012. Policy implications and future research needs are also highlighted. Continue reading

Progress is being made in the fight against obesity

A policy brief released earlier this year from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reports that the obesity epidemic has slowed or halted altogether in several countries. Though the progression of the epidemic has decelerated, the overall rate of obesity remains high among both children and adults. Continue reading