Safe routes to school examined: How structural changes around schools affect children’s mobility and safety

June 9, 2014, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The problem. In 1969, more than 40 percent of U.S. schoolchildren ages 5 to 18 walked or bicycled to school. By 2009, this number had declined to 12.7 percent. A 2008 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigating why more children do not walk to school found traffic safety to be the second most common barrier, after distance to school.

In 1999, California became the first state to approve legislation creating a Safe Routes to School program (SR2S). Eight years later, in 2007, legislative bill AB 57 extended the program indefinitely with funding provided from the State Highway Account at an annual amount of $24.25 million. Projects are identified through a statewide competition and require a 10 percent local match. They support engineering modifications near schools, such as new traffic lights, bike lanes, pathways, and sidewalks in the vicinity of schools serving K–12 students with the goal of making walking and biking easier and safer for children.

David Ragland, Director of the Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC) at the University of California, Berkeley, led the research team studying the long-term impact of the improvements on walking and bicycling levels and on safety. Continue reading

New IOM workshop will discuss how cross-sector solutions can help solve the obesity crisis

Please join the Institute of Medicine’s Roundtable (IOM) on Obesity Solutions on Sept. 30, 2014, for a public workshop titled Cross-Sector Work on Obesity Prevention, Treatment, and Weight Maintenance: Models for Change.

Register to attend the workshop at the National Academy of Sciences Building in Washington, DC, or via live webcast at 9 a.m., ET.

The workshop will explore how stakeholders with a traditional role in promoting health, such as health care and public health institutions, have aligned and partnered with sectors not traditionally engaged in health promotion and obesity prevention, including education, transportation, business, and industry. Successful examples of cross-sector collaborations exist, yet barriers exist when scaling and replicating such initiatives. Continue reading

Study finds elementary students like new healthier lunches

July 23, 2014, The Wall Street Journal

By Caroline Porter and Stephanie Armour

A new study reveals that the healthier school lunches despised in 2012 are now found to be agreeable among students and staffers.

When the federal government implemented new school meal regulations in 2012, a majority of elementary school students complained about the healthier lunches, but by the end of the school year most found the food agreeable, according to survey results released July 21.

The peer-reviewed study comes amid concerns that the regulations led schools to throw away more uneaten food and prompted some students to drop out of meal programs.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago surveyed administrators at more than 500 primary schools about student reaction to the new meals in the 2012-2013 school year. They found that 70 percent agreed or strongly agreed that students, by the end of the school year, generally liked the new lunches, which feature more whole grains, vegetables and fruits, and lower fat levels. Continue reading

Chat with NCCOR about childhood obesity on Sept. 9

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Today, nearly one out of three kids in America are overweight or obese. The numbers are even higher in the African American and Hispanic communities. Overweight and obese kids are at risk for a host of chronic obesity-related health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and asthma.

In observance of Childhood Obesity Awareness Month in September, join the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research for a Twitter Chat on Sept. 9, at 2 pm, ET.

We’ll be using the hashtag #childobesitychat.

Hosted by NCCOR (@NCCOR) alongside the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (@NICHD_NIH) and National Cancer Institute (@theNCI), we’ll discuss risk factors, research, and promising strategies. Most importantly, we’ll direct you to valuable resources.

In addition, NCCOR members Layla Esposito, Ph.D., and April Oh, Ph.D., M.P.H., of NICHD and NCI, respectively, will serve as our subject matter experts and help guide the discussion.

“It’s a great opportunity to be a part of the social media conversation around childhood obesity,” said Dr. Oh.

“Working with NCCOR to engage with researchers, practitioners, and the broader public about childhood obesity using the interactive Twitter platform is a dynamic way to communicate health and disseminate information,” she added.

Please include #childobesitychat in your tweets and follow @NCCOR for more information. Also, register for our chat at http://twtvite.com/childobesitychat.

Tweet you soon!

NCCOR brings together four of the nation’s leading research funders – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) – to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and application of childhood obesity research and accelerate progress in reducing childhood obesity.  

The cheap, colorful way cities are trying to fight childhood obesity

July 31, 2014, City Lab

By Aarian Marshall

The United States has a well-known childhood obesity problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one third of the nation’s children and adolescents were overweight or obese in 2012. The percentage of obese children ages 6 to 11 more than doubled over the past three decades, from 7 percent in 1980 to 18 percent in 2012.

But some cities, designers, and child health advocates think they have a solution—at least a small part of a solution. And the best news for cash-strapped schools and governments is that the solution is cheap.

In the language of playground design, “ground markings” are shapes, pictures, or games drawn onto the surfaces of play areas. These include readymade hopscotch squares, giant maps, and big circles to leap between. Continue reading

Child obesity levels hold steady in West Virginia

July 23, 2014, The Herald-Dispatch

One of the early signals that West Virginia was developing a child obesity problem came from the work of Huntington, W. Va., native Dr. William A. Neal. For the past 16 years, Neal has been checking the weight and health of elementary school students in the state through the West Virginia University School of Medicine’s CARDIAC Project.

Neal began to raise concerns more than a decade ago, and… in recent years, West Virginia has been the vanguard of a national crisis of childhood obesity.

But this year’s research shows some signs of progress, according to a report in the Clarksburg Exponent Telegram.

The state’s obesity rate among fifth-graders has remained steady at 28 percent, and there have been some declines in the prevalence of hypertension, indicators of prediabetes, and some cholesterol levels. That likely indicates an improvement in diet, and changes in school lunch programs could be a factor. Continue reading

NCCOR presents on webinar for Children’s Hospital Association

The National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) was invited to speak on a July 31 childhood obesity-focused webinar, one in a series produced by the Children’s Hospital Association.

“Resources for Researchers – An Overview of NCCOR” began with a welcome and remarks from Ms. Karen Seaver Hill, the Association’s director for child health advocacy. The Association advances child health through innovation in the quality, cost, and delivery of care.

NCCOR Project Director Todd Phillips, M.S., provided an overview of NCCOR’s mission, goals, and primary activities, and shared key ways the Collaborative supports clinicians’ and other practitioners’ work. Continue reading

We’re all in the clean-plate club, researchers conclude

July 24, 2014, Los Angeles Times

By Mary Macvean

Seems that most of us take to heart the common admonition to clean our plates, at least when we fill them ourselves.

Adults eat nearly 92 percent of the food they put on their plates, according to research published in the International Journal of Obesity.

There were some variations: If people were distracted, they ate less, almost 89 percent of what they took; they ate 92.8 percent of meals but only 76.1 percent of snacks. At home or in a lab, the amount eaten was about the same, and men and women ate the same percentages.

“If you put it on your plate, it’s going into your stomach,” said Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and the study’s lead researcher. Wansink, who frequently studies eating habits, conducted the research with Katherine Abowd Johnson, a doctoral student at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Continue reading

To encourage kids to eat more vegetables, don’t focus on the health benefits

July 22, 2014, Science World Report

By Kathleen Lees

A healthy diet remains an essential part of a child’s development. However, many children might not be so eager to pick up a piece of broccoli. Of course, they’d much rather have some candy or cake. But is it all just about the taste?

A recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that children might be more likely to eat their fruits and vegetables if they didn’t know about the added health benefits.

“We predicted that when food is presented to children as making them strong or as a tool to achieve a goal such as learning how to read or count, they would conclude the food is not as tasty and therefore consume less of it,” said researchers Michal Maimaran of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and Ayelet Fishbach of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, in a news release. Continue reading

Once-hailed salad bars gone from city’s schools

May 27, 2014, The Boston Globe

By James Vaznis

They stopped selling junk food at lunch and they persuaded a health-conscious food organization to donate a salad bar for their cafeteria so students could eat fresh romaine, cherry tomatoes, and bean salads instead of ice cream and potato chips.

By all accounts the fight against childhood obesity and diabetes appeared to be on the upswing at The Curley K-8 School in Jamaica Plain. The salad bar, offered twice a week to the upper grades, was a big hit with about half the students.

But it’s gone.

The School Department has refused to stock the salad bar since September and — to the horror of the school’s health and wellness committee — has reinstated the sale of snacks, including cookies and Doritos, during lunch. Continue reading