NCCOR Member Meeting panel offers insights

The most recent National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) Member Meeting, held on April 3, featured a lunchtime panel to discuss possible factors contributing to recently reported childhood obesity declines and related topics.

The event sparked an engaging discussion among members as the panel offered thoughts on what areas the Collaborative might focus on over the next five years. The meeting was the first since NCCOR celebrated its 5th birthday in February.

The panelists were:

  • Hank Cardello, Senior Fellow and Director, Obesity Solutions Initiative, The Hudson Institute
  • Jessica Donze Black, Director, Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods, The Pew Charitable Trusts
  • Tracy Fox, President, Food, Nutrition & Policy Consultants, LLC

Moderator Elaine Arkin of NCCOR and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation moderated the discussion, which included questions from NCCOR members.

All three panelists agreed that the recent declines indicate complementary shifts are occurring—that changes in food systems are being complemented by environmental and cultural shifts. Actions taken by the policy, industry, personal, and environmental sectors are beginning to have an impact. “Personal responsibility is being complemented by corporate responsibility and government responsibility,” said Fox.

The group also remarked that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been important in clarifying the link between obesity and increased health care costs.

The new statistics on declines in childhood obesity look good overall and are the beginning of what researchers would have hoped to see, given the increase in efforts for children ages 2-5 in recent years, they said. A panelist acknowledged changes in the composition of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) food packages as a potential contributing factor, for example. Even so, the panel noted the numbers mask distinct differences across subpopulations.

The panel reminded NCCOR that food marketing is still an enormous challenge. The food industry has specifically targeted certain groups, including children and minority groups. Also, marketing techniques have evolved significantly and now go far beyond traditional television marketing to encompass social media and other digital platforms such as games on mobile devices. To continue making headway, marketing unhealthy foods and beverages to children must be addressed.

In thinking about NCCOR’s next five years, the panel closed by listing several activities NCCOR may consider and adopt.

  • Find ways to replicate successes for populations and groups not currently experiencing declines.
  • Replicate successful natural experiments underway and figure out dynamic ways to communicate results.
  • Demonstrate and communicate what’s working using language that can be accessed by diverse groups, and frame results in ways that make groups act.
  • Communicate return-on-investment factors and “build the business case. It’s essential,” said Cardello, to educate businesses on how obesity declines benefit them.
  • “Let’s protect the really good policies we have in place right now,” said Donze Black, explaining that personal stories often impact legislative decisions. Thus, clear research findings accompanied by individual accounts can be very effective.

Study: Obesity’s link to type 2 diabetes not so clear-cut

Feb. 12, 2014, HealthDay

Although it’s a common belief that a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes often follows a large weight gain, a new study challenges that notion.

Researchers found that the majority of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes didn’t get the disease until they’d been overweight or obese for a number of years.

What’s more, participants who maintained stable levels of overweight and eventually developed type 2 diabetes didn’t have a significant rise in their level of insulin resistance — a traditional risk factor — before getting the disease.

“In general, the majority of individuals developing type 2 diabetes were rather weight stable during follow-up with a slightly higher average BMI [body mass index] than the diabetes-free population,” wrote study author Dorte Vistisen, at the Steno Diabetes Center in Denmark, and colleagues. Continue reading

New APHA infographic examines how public health has helped curb obesity

The American Public Health Association (APHA) recently released an infographic describing the burden and cost of obesity, how public health helps curb obesity, and the importance of public health funding.

Share this infographic widely and use it as an example when talking to decision makers about the importance of public health funding. Continue reading

Income, not ‘food deserts,’ more to blame for U.S. obesity

Sept. 20, 2013, Gallup.com

By Kyley McGeeney and Elizabeth Mendes

In the United States, obesity in “food deserts” is above average. However, it is not solely — or even primarily — access to grocery stores that appears to be the issue — higher obesity rates are more likely to be linked to lower incomes. In other words, a lack of access to food in and of itself doesn’t matter when it comes to obesity. It only matters if Americans are also low-income. Further, income always matters, regardless of whether an individual has access to grocery stores or not.

“Food deserts” are typically defined as either an area that has limited access to grocery stores or as an area that is low income and lacks access to grocery stores. Regardless of which definition is used, what is clear is that the lack of access to grocery stores alone is not related to higher obesity rates — rather, it is more a lack of income. Continue reading

More education, not income, fights obesity

Sept. 13, 2013, Medical Xpress

By Stephanie Stephens

Educational status may protect women living in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas against obesity, finds a new study in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

The study adds to previous studies showing an inverse association between body mass index (BMI) and socioeconomic status (SES). Generally, researchers have discovered that women in areas with fewer economic resources have higher BMIs than women in more affluent communities.

Income and education are frequently used as markers for studying health inequalities, although they are “conceptually distinct,” said the new report’s authors. “It is possible that education is a marker of an individual’s access to health information, capacity to assimilate health-related messages, and ability to retain knowledge-related assets, such as nutrition knowledge.” Continue reading

Teens who beat obesity at risk for eating disorders

Sept. 9, 2013, USA Today

By Michelle Healy

Teens who were once overweight or obese are at a significant risk of developing an eating disorder as they lose weight, but identification and treatment of the condition is often delayed because of their weight history, researchers say.

“For some reason we are just not thinking that these kids are at risk. We say, ‘Oh boy, you need to lose weight, and that’s hard for you because you’re obese,’ “ says Leslie Sim, clinical director of the eating disorders program at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and lead author of a case study report in October’s Pediatrics, published online today.

In the report, Sim and colleagues review two cases in which teens with a history of obesity developed severe, restrictive eating patterns in the process of losing weight. But indications of an eating disorder went unidentified and untreated by medical providers for as long as two years despite regular check-ups. Continue reading

Obesity’s death toll may be much higher than thought

Aug. 15, 2013, HealthDay

By Dennis Thompson

Researchers have vastly underestimated the number of deaths caused by obesity in the United States, a new report reveals.

Obesity accounts for 18 percent of deaths among black and white Americans between the ages of 40 and 85, according to a study published online Aug. 15 in the American Journal of Public Health. Previous estimates had placed obesity-related deaths at only 5 percent of all U.S. mortalities.

“This was more than a tripling of the previous estimate,” said study author Ryan Masters, who conducted the research as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation scholar at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, in New York City. “Obesity has dramatically worse health consequences than some recent reports have led us to believe.” Continue reading

NIH workshop explores ways to prevent obesity in infancy and early childhood

Intervening to prevent the development of overweight and obesity as early as possible has the potential to improve health and reduce the health care costs associated with obesity-related diseases now and in the future. Little is known, however, regarding effective interventions for obesity prevention that might be implemented during infancy and early childhood.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Workshop on the Prevention of Obesity in Infancy and Early Childhood will bring together scientists with expertise in pediatric obesity, epidemiology, developmental psychology, developmental and behavioral pediatrics, nutrition, physical activity, sleep, temperament, and parenting to determine: (1) what is known regarding risk for excess weight gain in infancy and early childhood, (2) what is known regarding interventions that are promising or have been shown to be efficacious, and (3) challenges and opportunities in implementing and evaluating behavioral interventions in parents and other caregivers and their young children. Continue reading

Elevated blood pressure increasing among children

July 15, 2013, Los Angeles Times

By Monte Morin

The risk of elevated blood pressure among children and teens has risen 27 percent over a 13-year period, and is probably caused by over-consumption of salt and rising obesity, according to a new study.

In a paper published July 14 in Hypertension, a journal of the American Heart Association (AHA), researchers examined health and nutrition data for more than 11,600 children ages 8 to 17. Continue reading

Focus on health, not fat, in food talks with kids

June 24, 2013, HealthDay

By Denise Mann

There’s a right way and a wrong way to persuade your adolescent to eat healthy and help avoid obesity, a new study suggests.

Pointedly connecting food with fatness or talking about needed weight loss is the wrong way and could even encourage unhealthy eating habits, researchers report.

Instead, discussions that focus on simply eating healthfully are less likely to send kids down this road, a new study shows.

“A lot of parents are aware of the obesity problem in the United States — it’s everywhere you turn — but they wonder how to talk about it with their children,” said study lead author Dr. Jerica Berge of the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis. Continue reading