Gap in diet quality between wealthiest and poorest Americans doubles, study finds

Sept. 1, 2014, National Geographic

By Tracie McMillan

The diets of low-income Americans have worsened in the past decade, even as the diets of the wealthiest Americans have improved, according to a new study that is among the first to measure changes in diet quality over time by socioeconomic status. Overall diet quality in the United States remains poor, said the lead author of the study, published Sept. 1 in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine.

Although the study found that the diet of all Americans improved on average between 2005-2010, the progress masked a decline in diet quality among the poor. The result: a doubling of the gap in diet quality between the wealthiest Americans and the poorest.

The study attributed the change to the higher cost of convenient and healthy meals, as well as limited access to quality supermarkets in some poorer neighborhoods. Continue reading

USDA backs healthy incentives

Oct. 6, 2014, U.S. Department of Agriculture

USDA is firmly committed to ensuring that all Americans have access to a safe, healthy, adequate, and affordable diet. Unfortunately, our nation is facing an unprecedented nutrition crisis, with far too many Americans facing both food insecurity and obesity. Although it seems paradoxical, the two actually go hand in hand far too often. To reverse the course of this two-sided crisis, we must create a cultural change that facilitates and encourages healthy food choices among all Americans.

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USDA invests nearly $118 million to support America’s specialty crop producers

Oct. 2, 2014, U.S. Department of Agriculture

On Oct. 2 Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced nearly $118 million in grants to strengthen markets for specialty crops, such as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, horticulture, and nursery crops. The grants were authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill as part of an effort to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops and provide resources to strengthen American agriculture. The Secretary made the announcement in Florida.

“Specialty crop grants provide a major boost to the rural economies,” said Secretary Vilsack. “Today’s announcement is another example of how [the U.S. Department of Agriculture] (USDA) is implementing the Farm Bill to deliver critical tools producers need to successfully grow, process, and market high-quality products.”

Sales of specialty crops total nearly $65 billion per year, making them a critical part of the U.S. economy. The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), will provide $66 million to state departments of agriculture for projects that help support specialty crop growers, including locally grown fruits and vegetables, through research and programs to increase demand. In addition, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is awarding $51.8 million in grants through its Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI). SCRI supports the specialty crop sector by developing and disseminating science-based tools to address the needs of specific crops. Continue reading

After-school exercise yields brain gains

Sept. 29, 2014, HealthDay

By Tara Haelle

Regular daily exercise appears to improve children’s attention and multitasking skills, according to a new study.

Elementary school-age students who participated in an after-school program with plenty of physical activity showed greater improvements in several areas of so-called “executive function” than similar students who did not participate.

Executive function refers to a range of mental or “cognitive” skills that include memory, focus, attention, and the ability to switch back and forth between tasks.

Lead researcher Charles Hillman said that students who had the highest attendance in the program saw the biggest gains in mental skills. Continue reading

Food cravings are stronger, but controllable, for kids

Sept. 8, 2014, Medical Xpress

Children show stronger food cravings than adolescents and adults, but they are also able to use a cognitive strategy that reduces cravings, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

“These findings are important because they suggest that we may have another tool in our toolbox to combat childhood obesity,” says psychological scientist and lead researcher Jennifer A. Silvers, a post-doctoral fellow at Columbia University in the laboratory of Professor Kevin Ochsner.

Most interventions aimed at preventing or reducing childhood obesity focus on changing the environment—by limiting access to soda, for example, or by encouraging physical activity. Continue reading

Expanded Built Environment and Public Health Clearinghouse a go-to resource for design and public health training, news

The American Public Health Association, American Planning Association, National Network of Public Health Institutes, and Georgia Institute of Technology recently launched a greatly expanded Built Environment and Public Health Clearinghouse (BEPHC) as a resource for community design and public health training and community building. It is intended to be an evolving resource for training at the university and professional levels and a source for relevant news at the critical intersection of health and place.

The newly launched BEPHC website offers both academic and professional training resources that address the link between public health and planning, architecture, health impact assessment, transportation engineering, and other fields. The academic training pages provide information on courses taught at the university level that link public health to the built environment, while the professional training pages resources include multi-sector tools, training, case studies, and best practices to create, promote, and maintain healthy places. Continue reading

Key groups launch research consortium for design, public health collaboration

Request for proposals due Oct. 15 for university-led research 

The AIA Foundation, along with the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA), recently announced the establishment of the AIA Design & Health Research Consortium to help fund basic research into the growing influence design has on public health.

The consortium will be comprised of like-minded university teams consisting of experts in architecture and public health. AIA Foundation and its partners will work with consortium members to identify and develop opportunities for funded research, publication, and other resources in design and public health, with the idea that coordination and collaboration will benefit the consortium, its partners, and the design and health professions. Continue reading

New commentary explores the negative impact of weight bias

Theodore Kyle and Rebecca Puhlare are participants on the Institute of Medicine (IOM) Roundtable on Obesity Solutions. In a new commentary, Kyle and Puhlare examine the negative impact of weight bias on finding solutions to the obesity epidemic.

In the paper the authors describe the how weight bias, an often neglected issue, impedes progress toward evidence-based solutions to obesity. They maintain it also leads to adverse health outcomes for children and adults since those who face weight bias are more likely to avoid health care, engage in unhealthy eating behaviors, increase food consumption, avoid physical activity, and experience elevated stress. Continue reading

Help CDC spread the word about obesity during September’s National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

Approximately 1 of every 5 (17%) children in the United States has obesity, and certain groups of children are more affected than others. Childhood obesity puts children at early risk for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease—conditions usually associated with adulthood.

There is no single or simple solution to childhood obesity.  It is influenced by many different factors, including a lack of access to healthy, affordable food and drinks as well as limited opportunities for physical activity in the places where children live, learn, and play.  Working together, states, communities, and parents can help make the healthy choice the easy choice for children and adolescents. Continue reading

Insights into Landmark Calorie Declines in the U.S. Food Marketplace

NCCOR’s Connect & Explore Webinar provides an in-depth look at the findings and groundbreaking methods from the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation evaluation

In an unprecedented review of the U.S. food system, researchers have, for the first time, used big data to track the number of foods and beverages consumed and purchased by Americans. The assessment, conducted by University of North Carolina (UNC) researchers, was part of an evaluation of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation’s (HWCF) pledge to remove 1 trillion calories from the marketplace by 2012, and 1.5 trillion by 2015.

The independent evaluation was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and examined the number of calories in packaged goods and the amount of calories purchased by U.S. families with children. The two studies, published September 17 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that 16 food industry leaders cut 6.4 trillion calories from the U.S. food market over five years (2007-2012). The findings also showed that American families with children bought 101 fewer calories from packaged goods per person per day in 2012 than they did in 2007. Continue reading