E-Newsletter
November 2009


SPOTLIGHT

PUBLICATIONS

RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS

CHILDHOOD OBESITY NEWS


SPOTLIGHT

Study Shows Overwhelming Parent Support for Healthier Schools

Oct. 28, 2009, RWJF Childhood Obesity News Digest

The vast majority of parents want schools to limit students’ access to high-calorie chips, sodas and candy and to offer them opportunities for physical activity throughout the day, a new survey by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation shows. The national survey signals the breadth of parents’ support for changes to make schools healthier places—and their willingness to help make those changes happen. In fact, nearly eight in 10 parents are ready to get more involved to create a healthier environment in their local schools.

Conducted for the Alliance by KRC Research, the survey found that more than 92 percent of parents consider physical education and health education as important as English, math and science instruction. Furthermore, 96 percent of parents believe that physical activity can boost their children’s classroom performance, and virtually all parents (99 percent) recognize that healthy eating also has a positive effect on learning.

The results indicate parents’ increasing awareness of the impact schools can have on student health. The survey also suggests widespread parental concern over the cuts many school systems have made in physical education and recess, often the unfortunate result of budget difficulties and standardized testing pressures.

“Schools across the country are trying their best to provide healthier environments for students, but they are working against significant time and resource constraints,” said Ginny Ehrlich, executive director of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. “What is exciting about the results of this survey is that not only do parents understand how important nutrition and physical activity are to the academic success of their children, but they are overwhelmingly willing to step up and be a part of the solution.”

Among the key findings from the online survey of 600 parents of children in grades K-12:

  • Parents nearly unanimously agree (98 percent) that their child’s school should offer opportunities for physical activity throughout the day, whether through P.E., activity breaks or recess and afterschool programs.
  • Almost as many parents (96 percent) agree that their child’s school should limit access to unhealthy snacks and sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • About two-thirds of parents (63 percent) believe schools play a major role in instilling healthy habits in students.
  • Four-fifths of parents have undertaken one or more health-related activity or advocacy effort in their local schools. Those include bringing nutritious foods to school parties or other events and pushing for healthier lunch menus or expanded health education for students.

“Parents get the connection between healthy schools, healthy students and academic achievement,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). “They know that most school environments need to be improved, and it’s incredibly encouraging that they stand ready to help make the changes necessary.”

The results of the Alliance survey follow recent research findings that students who are healthy and physically active are more likely to be motivated, attentive and successful academically. In particular, studies have linked P.E. programs to stronger academic performance, increased concentration and higher math, reading and writing test scores.

Yet data from the 2006 federal School Health Policies and Programs Study (SHPPS) shows that nearly one-third of elementary schools do not schedule recess on a regular basis, and almost one in four children in elementary grades do not participate in any free-time physical activity during school hours. Only half of high school students have at least one P.E. class weekly.

By contrast, progress has been made on the nutrition front. Based on SHPPS data from 2002 to 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced that fewer secondary schools now allow students to buy candy or higher-fat salty snacks. And in 34 states studied, there was a significant increase between 2006 and 2008 in the percentage of schools where students could not purchase sodas.

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Original Source:
http://www.rwjf.org/childhoodobesity/product.jsp?id=50588

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PUBLICATIONS

Adolescent Obesity: Towards Evidence-Based Policy
and Environment Solutions

September 2009, RWJF Childhood Obesity News Digest

A special supplement of the Journal of Adolescent Health presents research documenting trends toward healthier foods and more physical activity in schools. The authors acknowledge that a wide range of factors influence obesity’s development, but policy and environment solutions may be the key to reversing the childhood obesity trend.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) sponsors several research programs on which the 11 articles presented in this supplement are based. They include: National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR); Active Living Research (ALR) and Healthy Eating Research (HER); Bridging the Gap; and Yale University Rudd Center for Food. The studies are among the first to document how well state and local policies, enacted to enhance student wellness and address childhood obesity, are being implemented and whether they are making a difference.

Three of the studies examine compliance by individual schools or school districts with healthy eating policies, such as California’s nutrition standards, and two articles assess the current environments in schools nationwide. Collectively, they suggest that the stronger the standards, the more likely that a policy will be effectively implemented and have a real impact. The researchers also offered general policy recommendations and discuss the need for additional studies.

View the supplement’s editorial piece by Mary Story, Ph.D, RD, James F. Sallis, Ph.D., and C. Tracy Orleans, Ph.D.

Read briefs about each of the 11 research articles featured in the supplement and download the article PDFs.

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Original Source:
http://www.rwjf.org/childhoodobesity/product.jsp?id=48309&c=

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Study Finds Food Companies Aggressively Market Least Healthy Cereals to Children

Oct. 26, 2009, RWJF Childhood Obesity News Digest

Researchers find that children’s cereals have 85 percent more sugar, 65 percent less fiber and 60 percent more sodium than cereals marketed to adults. In addition, companies are spending more than $156 million dollars a year to market these cereals directly to kids. These findings are part of an extensive analysis of children’s cereals conducted by researchers at the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity as part of the RWJF-funded Cereal FACTS (Food Advertising to Children and Teens Score) project. The results of this study were presented at the 2009 Obesity Society Meeting in Washington, DC.

The complete report, Nutrition and Marketing Ratings of Children’s Cereals, offers unprecedented insight into the nutrition profile of children’s cereals and reveals how food companies are reaching kids to promote these products. The study also offers recommendations for protecting children from marketing for unhealthy products, including developing objective nutrition standards for cereals marketed to children and strengthening the definition of “children’s media.” Cereal manufacturers previously have pledged to market only healthy products through children’s media, but as currently defined the pledge does not apply to many programs popular with children. The report’s authors suggest developing a definition for children’s media based on the total number of children in the audience or the percentage of the audience that’s composed of children.

Get access to the full report here.

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Original Source:
http://www.rwjf.org/childhoodobesity/product.jsp?id=50433

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RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS

Study Shows a Little Money Buys a Lot of Calories at City Corner Stores

Oct. 12, 2009, RWJF Childhood Obesity Digest

Children in Philadelphia who attended public schools and shopped at corner stores before or after school purchased almost 360 calories of foods and beverages per visit, according to recent research published in Pediatrics. Chips, candy and sugar-sweetened beverages were the most frequently purchased items.

This is the first study to document both what foods and beverages children purchased in local corner stores on their way to and from school, and the nutritional content of those items.

Lead researcher Kelley Borradaile, Ph.D., from the Center for Obesity Research and Education at Temple University, and colleagues from The Food Trust conducted over 800 surveys of fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-grade students outside of 24 corner stores in Philadelphia.

Research staff interviewed children about their purchases immediately after they were made, and also recorded the type, weight and size of each item purchased to collect nutritional information. Children in the study were from one of 10 urban K-8 schools, and over 80 percent of the students enrolled in the schools qualified for free or reduced-price meals. Other key findings from the study include:

  • Over 53 percent of students reported shopping at corner stores once daily, five days per week.
  • Almost 29 percent of the students surveyed shopped at corner stores both before and after school, five days per week.
  • On average, children spent a little over a dollar to purchase 356 calories of snack food and/or drinks during each visit. With just a dollar, children could buy an 8-ounce beverage, a single serving bag of chips, an assortment of candy and gum, and a popsicle.
  • Chips were the most frequently purchased item, accounting for about 34 percent of all items purchased, followed by candy, sugar-sweetened beverages and gum.

“This is the first study to show what children purchase from corner stores before and after school,” said Borradaile. “It is troubling that so little money buys so many calories. Corner stores are an important part of the urban landscape, and they have a significant impact on the amount and quality of calories children consume.”

Because corner stores are often prevalent in lower-income communities where children are at the highest risk for childhood obesity, Borradaile and colleagues stress the opportunity these stores offer to increase the availability of healthy food in communities.

Temple University is evaluating The Food Trust’s efforts to improve access to affordable, healthy foods in corner stores. Borradaile’s study provides baseline data for an ongoing two-year study of the program’s effects on children’s purchases.

“Promoting items like water, single-serving snacks and fresh fruits are small changes that could yield a significant impact on the quantity and quality of children’s food intake,” said Sandy Sherman, Ed.D, director of nutrition education at The Food Trust.

The study, “Snacking in Children: The Role of Urban Corner Stores,” was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through its national program Healthy Eating Research. This study is part of a larger national effort, the Healthy Corner Store Initiative, to help store owners in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Oakland, Calif., stock fresh fruit and other healthy snacks.

Other researchers on this study are Sandy Sherman, Brianna Sandoval and Allison Karpyn, from The Food Trust; Stephanie S. Vander Veur, Tara McCoy and Gary D. Foster, from Temple University; and Joan Nachmani, from the Philadelphia School District.

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Original Source:
http://www.rwjf.org/childhoodobesity/product.jsp?id=49609

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Research Suggests 20 Percent of Teens Face Cardiovascular Dangers

Oct. 27, 2009, CanWest News Service

By Allison Cross

High blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity are affecting young teenagers in Canada at alarmingly high rates, and are increasing over time, according to a new study presented at October’s Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Edmonton.

One in five young teens studied had high blood pressure and most already had at least one major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, says the study, which examined the heart health of 20,719 ninth-grade students aged 14 and 15 over the course of seven years.

“The most disturbing thing is that the trends have shown that this is either getting worse, or at best, hasn’t changed over this period of time,” said Dr. Brian McCrindle, a cardiologist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. “I think it speaks to the fact that although there has been greater public awareness of the problem ... that hasn’t yet translated into any behavior changes.”

Heart Niagara Ltd., a nonprofit organization, collected the data for the study between 2002 and 2008, and McCrindle and his childhood obesity research team partnered with them to analyze and interpret the results.

The percentage of ninth-grade students with one or more cardiovascular risk factors rose four points between 2002 and 2008, from 17 percent to 21 percent.

The percentage of students with elevated cholesterol rose seven points, from 9 percent to 16 percent. As risk factors for heart disease and stroke have increased, so have the hours of sedentary behavior among teens.

The percentage of 14 and 15-year-olds who spent 20 hours per week watching television or playing video games rose from 22 percent to 24 percent between 2002 and 2008. And the percentage of ninth-grade students who are physically active for 90 minutes at least five times per week fell from 28 to 22 percent.

Teenagers with high blood pressure or cholesterol or who are obese are likely to carry these risk factors into adulthood, McCrindle said.

“It’s really that seamless transition ... into adulthood with all of these risk factors without changing them that puts the people at the highest for developing heart attack and stroke, and developing them at early ages,” he said.

Young teenagers who leave these risk factors unchecked into adulthood could become part of a generation that has a shorter life span than their parents, McCrindle said.

Most of these risk factors are completely reversible by adopting a healthier lifestyle and reaching a more ideal weight, he said, unless those risk factors were genetically inherited.

“It’s all shocking,” said Dr. Beth Abramson, a Toronto cardiologist and spokeswoman for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. “What we do know is we’re a society battling obesity, and high blood pressure and high cholesterol are often related to being overweight and out of shape.”

Changes in lifestyle can help prevent risk factors for heart and stroke, Abramson said, but communities as a whole need to make big changes.

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Original Source: http://www.montrealgazette.com/health/Study+finds+teens+risk+coronary+woes/
2149806/story.html

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Let Kids Sleep Late on Weekends to Fight Fat

Oct. 28, 2009, HealthDay News

HONG KONG — Letting children sleep late on weekends and holidays might help them avoid becoming overweight or obese, a new study suggests.

Researchers in Hong Kong found that children who got less sleep tended to be heavier (as measured by BMI) than children who slept more. But among children who slept less than eight hours a night, those who compensated for their weekday sleep deficit by sleeping late on weekends or holidays were significantly less likely to be overweight or obese.

The study, which confirmed previous research linking sleep deficits to obesity in children, also found that, on average, children slept significantly longer on weekends and holidays than on school weekdays. However, the overweight children tended to get less weekend/holiday sleep than their normal-weight peers.

The researchers didn’t determine why obese and overweight children were less likely to sleep late on holidays or weekends, but noted that they tended to spend more time doing homework and watching TV than their normal-weight peers.

Biological factors might also play a role in the compressed sleep cycle, they said.

“There’s a lot of evidence linking short sleep duration to higher body mass,” said Kristen Knutson, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, who was not involved in the study. “What’s unique about this study is that it’s the first to show that extending sleep on weekends may help with avoiding weight gain.”

Still, the researchers urged caution in the interpretation of their findings, acknowledging that “an irregular sleep-wake schedule and insufficient sleep among school-aged children and adolescents has been documented with a variety of serious repercussions, including increased daytime sleepiness, academic difficulties, and mood and behavioral problems.”

The precise nature of the link between short sleep duration and obesity remains unclear, said Mary A. Carskadon, professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University’s Alpert Medical School in Providence, R.I., and director of chronobiology at Bradley Hospital in East Providence.

“Evidence has shown that there are changes in satiety and in levels of the hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin,” Carskadon said. “But there’s also evidence that kids who are not getting enough sleep get less physical activity, perhaps simply because they’re too tired. It’s just not cut-and-dried.”

The study authors noted that “reduced sleep duration has become a hallmark of modern society, with people generally sleeping one to two hours less than a few decades ago.”

Experts say that adolescents and pre-pubertal children generally do best with 9.5 to 10 hours of sleep a night, younger children a bit more. The one-year study, led by Yun Kwok Wing of The Chinese University of Hong Kong, used questionnaires to track the sleep habits, lifestyle, height and weight of 5,159 local children aged 5 to 15 years.

The findings, published in the November issue of Pediatrics, could be helpful in preventing and managing childhood obesity, the authors noted.

For now, parents should take note of their children’s wake-sleep cycles in light of other behavioral and environmental factors, the researchers advised.

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Original Source: http://www.ajc.com/health/content/shared-auto/healthnews/cdev/632397.html

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ADDITIONAL RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS

Antipsychotic Drugs Linked to Childhood Obesity

Oct. 28, 2009, CBC News

More than a third of children and teenagers taking certain antipsychotic drugs became overweight or obese in the first three months of treatment, a new study has found.

A newer class of drugs known as atypical antipsychotic medications can be lifesaving for young people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or severe aggression associated with autism, according to an editorial accompanying the study in an October issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

But the widespread use of the drugs should be reconsidered, given the risk of weight gain and the long-term risk of cardiovascular and metabolic problems, wrote Dr. Christopher Varley and Dr. Jon McClellan of Seattle Children’s Hospital.

For the study, the researchers looked at 205 children and teens aged 4 to 19 with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and disruptive or aggressive behavior spectrum disorders.

Side-effects of the drugs included weight gain, obesity, hypertension, cholesterol and glucose problems that can lead to heart problems and diabetes, Dr. Christoph Correll of Zucker Hillside Hospital and the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in New York and his colleagues reported.

After about 11 weeks, the average weight gain among study participants was:

  • 18.7 pounds (8.5 kg) for Eli Lilly’s Zyprexa or olanzapine;
  • 13.4 pounds (3.5 kg) for AstraZeneca’s Seroquel or quetiapine;
  • 11.7 pounds (3.5 kg) for Johnson & Johnson’s Risperdal or risperidone;
  • 9.7 pounds (4.4 kg) for Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Abilify or aripiprazole;
  • and, 0.4 pounds in the untreated comparison group.

Overall, 10 percent to 36 percent of the subjects became overweight or obese within 11 weeks of starting antipsychotic drug treatment. Other adverse metabolic changes were found for each drug, including cholesterol and blood sugar changes for olanzapine and higher cholesterol or blood sugar levels for aripiprazole.

The study’s authors recommended that if children and adolescents are started on antipsychotic medication, there should be greater monitoring for heart and metabolic effects.

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Original Source: http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2009/10/28/antipsychotic-children-obesity.html

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Clothing Survey Fuels Development of Childhood Obesity Index

Oct. 5, 2009, Research

By Brian Tarran

UK — Research funded by clothing retailers is being used as the basis of a body volume index (BVI), which its developer hopes will provide a better gauge of childhood obesity in the country.

Select Research is building the BVI as a spin-off from its work with Next, Monsoon, Asda and others on the National Childrenswear Survey.

At least 6,000 children aged 14-17 will have taken part in the study by the time of its completion next year, each having had their body shapes analysed using 3D scanners.

The retailers will use the results of the research to adjust their clothing sizes where necessary, but Select recently received the blessing of its partners to take data from the study and develop the BVI.

Agency boss Richard Barnes said the firm is currently in talks aimed at getting the index adopted by the UK government, which has made a commitment to reverse the trend in obesity and excess weight among children by 2020 and to bring it back down to levels last seen in the 2000.

Barnes said current measures of childhood obesity are based on the body mass index, which is a measure of height against weight.

BMI is widely considered to be a flawed measure of obesity – not least in the fact that muscle weighs more than fat. It is, however, a more reliable measure for adults, where height is constant, than it is for children, who are still growing. To get round this problem, Select’s index will be based on differences in “weight distribution”, said Barnes.

The company developed a BVI for adults in 2007, which followed on from its work on the National Sizing Survey in 2004.

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Original Source: http://www.research-live.com/news/news-headlines/clothing-survey-fuels-development-of-childhood-obesity-index/4001084.article

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CHILDHOOD OBESITY NEWS

IoM Issues Recommendations to Improve Healthfulness of Federal School Meal Program

Oct. 21, 2009, RWJF Childhood Obesity News Digest, U.S. News & World Report

A new report from the Institute of Medicine (IoM) calls for updating federal standards to limit the calories in meals served in U.S. schools, as well as offer more fruits and vegetables, and whole grain food items, the Los Angeles Times reports.

At the request of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the IoM convened a committee to provide recommenda­tions to help better align school meals with federal dietary guidelines. The nutrition standards for the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program have not been updated since 1995.

To create the recommendations, the IoM used the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans outlined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the USDA, as well as the IoM’s Dietary Reference Intakes to analyze the food and nutrition­ needs of school-aged children. To align school meals with the various guidelines, the committee recommended that the Food and Nutrition Service of the USDA adopt standards for both menu planning and for meals selected by students.

For menu planning, the IoM suggests that schools increase daily fruit and vegetable servings. The guidelines also recommend that at least one-half of all grains and breads be whole grain and that only fat-free and low-fat milk be offered in schools. The new guidance establishes minimum and maximum calorie levels, rather than just minimum standards as exists under the current model, and calls for officials to “gradually but markedly decrease sodium to the specified level by 2020.”

The IoM report says lunches shouldn’t be more than 650 calories in grades K-5, 700 for middle-schoolers, and 850 for high-schoolers. Breakfasts, meantime, should range from 500 to 600 calories depending on the grade.

To achieve this goal, the committee recommends that the USDA “work cooperatively with HHS, the food industry, professional organizations, state agencies, advocacy groups and parents.” Finally, the report calls for the Food and Nutrition Service to provide support for menu development and improvement, or­dering of appropriate foods, and cost control.

The IoM also recommended that the service establish procedures to monitor the quality of school meals. The IoM report concludes that if the recommended changes are implemented, school meals will “appeal to students and contribute to their health and well being.” According to the report, the federal school meal programs in 2008 provided lunch to more than 30.5 million children and breakfast to 10.5 million children (MacVean, Los Angeles Times, 10/20/09; IoM report brief, 10/20/09).

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Original Sources:
http://www.rwjf.org/childhoodobesity/digest.jsp?id=24180;

http://health.usnews.com/blogs/on-fitness/2009/10/20/new-item-on-the-school-cafeteria-menu-a-calorie-limit.html

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Cut the Fat: New Rules in Place for WIC Food Purchases

Oct. 3, 2009, Verde Valley News

By Howard Fischer

Unable to defeat childhood obesity with public relations campaigns, Arizona health officials are going to start using their power to force parents to buy healthier items.

Families enrolled in the WIC nutrition program -- for women, infants and children -- will find that their coupons are no longer good for the same quantities of some of the items they were getting for free before. Most notably, the milk, cheese and juices that formed much of the basis of the diet will be available in much smaller amounts, and mothers and children older than 2 will be able to get only fat-free and low-fat milk.

The list instead will include more whole grains. WIC families will be able to get soy-based beverages and tofu. Canned tuna and salmon will now be an acceptable purchase. And for the first time ever, there will be specific allocations for fresh fruits and vegetables.

Acting state Health Director Will Humble said the change will mean a lot more healthy Arizona children. The guidelines to qualify for WIC are fairly generous: A family of three can have income up to $33,875 and remain eligible; the figure for a family of four is $40,794. What that means, Humble said, is about 190,000 Arizona families are getting WIC coupons. That’s close to 60 percent of all families with children age 5 and younger.

“We’re finally able to do something about obesity besides just preaching to people to get some exercise and eat right,” he said. Humble said WIC foods are a “pretty significant” source of nourishment in homes of eligible families.

“With this change in the WIC menu, we have the opportunity to really hard-wire healthier eating habits into little kids, and into families that have little kids.”

The change, said Humble, reflects a new focus on the problem.

“The WIC menu was really derived at a time in the ‘70s when hunger was a major public health issue,” he explained. That’s why the list of eligible foods was focused on “foods that are decent foods but, in general, have quite a bit of fat and a lot of sugar. It was a lot of cheese,” Humble said.

“Over the last 30 years, we’ve seen a transition from when hunger was the major public health issue to today, when obesity is a far bigger public health issue,” he explained.

Hence, the need for a different menu. The cheese won’t be gone. But the purchases will be limited to a single 16-ounce package each time. The amount of milk available also will be less as will sugary juices.

“In exchange, we’ll be asking people to make healthier choices with their WIC coupons,” he said. ... The change also will affect retailers: In order to be able to continue accepting WIC coupons that cannot be redeemed for canned items, some smaller stores had to start carrying fresh fruits and vegetables. “Some of them had to change their business strategy and order produce and fruits that they have never ordered before,” he said.

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Original Source:
http://verdenews.com/main.asp?SectionID=1&SubSectionID=1&ArticleID=32977

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Groups Launch New Foundation Devoted to Reducing Obesity Rates

Oct. 8, 2009, RWJF Childhood Obesity News Digest

A coalition of more than 40 retailers, food and beverage manufacturers and nongovernmental organizations teamed up to launch the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (HWCF), which aims to reduce obesity rates by 2015, particularly among children, the El Dorado Times reports.

The Foundation will encourage balancing calories consumed through a healthy diet with calories burned through physical activity by reaching individuals in the places where they spend much of their time: the marketplace, the workplace and schools. As part of the marketplace initiative, retailers and food manufacturers in the coalition may alter products, packaging or labeling; offer smaller portions and more complete caloric information; or provide more information or educational materials to consumers. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) will support an independent, objective evaluation of the marketplace initiative. As part of the workplace initiative, participating companies will launch new or enhance existing employee wellness programs, such as offering healthier foods in cafeterias and snack machines, providing access to exercise opportunities at work, and hosting weight management programs to help employees achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

Finally, the HWCF will expand the successful Healthy Schools Partnership to additional schools in Kansas City, where the program has been successfully piloted, and to schools in Des Moines, Iowa; Washington, D.C.; Chicago and a tribal community in Iowa. HWCF members, including General Mills, Campbell Soup, Sara Lee, Kraft Foods and Coca-Cola, as well as nonprofit partners such as the American Council for Fitness and Nutrition Foundation, Girl Scouts of the USA and the National Wildlife Federation, have committed $20 million to the efforts so far (El Dorado Times, 10/6/09; HWCF release, 10/5/09).

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Original Source: http://www.rwjf.org/publichealth/digest.jsp?id=23505

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ADDITIONAL CHILDHOOD OBESITY NEWS

National Business Group on Health Unveils Employer Toolkit
for Childhood Obesity

Oct. 21, 2009, Marketwire

Saying that employers can no longer afford to ignore the epidemic of childhood obesity, the National Business Group on Health today announced the launch of “Childhood Obesity: It’s Everyone’s Business,” a toolkit designed to help U.S. employers address the growing problem of overweight and obese children.

Studies have shown that the prevalence of childhood obesity in the United States has nearly tripled over the past 30 years, with nearly one-third of children now considered either overweight or obese. The United States currently has the highest percentage of overweight youth in its history.

“There is a great deal at stake for U.S. employers,” said Helen Darling, President of the National Business Group on Health, whose members include 280 large U.S. employers. “An obese teenager has a 70 percent chance of become an obese adult. And with health care for obesity-related illnesses costing employers at least $45 billion annually, the price tag of this childhood epidemic could become unaffordable if we don’t change course.”

The new toolkit was developed with support from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources Services Administration’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau. It reflects growing employer interest in childhood obesity and practical solutions to the problem. Toolkit recommendations for employers intentionally build on the infrastructure and resources that many large employers already have in place.

“Employers are in a terrific position to be leaders in the battle against childhood obesity,” said LuAnn Heinen, a vice president and director of the Institute on the Costs and Health Effects of Obesity. “That’s one of the primary reasons we developed this toolkit. Our goal is to provide a range of options -- and employer examples -- that they can easily implement in their own company.”

The toolkit is divided into seven major components including an overview of childhood obesity and the major ways it impacts businesses. Four core components illustrate how initiatives employers already have in place may be expanded or leveraged to promote healthy child weight. These core components include:

  • Benefit Design: Aligning Stakeholders to Change Behavior
  • Employee Education: Equipping Employees for the Battle
  • Employer-Sponsored Programs and Onsite Facilities: Using What You Have
  • Community and Philanthropy: Reconsidering Company Contributions

“As overweight and obesity increases among children, employers are clearly going to be affected in many ways. Childhood obesity will lead to increased health care utilization and higher costs for employers. Poor child health will also decrease employee productivity as working parents often must leave work early and be absent to care for their child. Schools, child care facilities, communities and families have begun to respond but more focused efforts are urgently needed.

Employers and health care providers also have roles to play as part of a comprehensive solution. Clearly, childhood obesity is everyone’s business,” concluded Heinen.

The toolkit is available free of charge to the public at www.businessgrouphealth.org.

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Original Source: http://au.sys-con.com/node/1153494

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First Lady Calls for Small Changes to Reduce Childhood Obesity

Oct. 16, 2009, RWJF Childhood Obesity News Digest

In a recent address to employees at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), First Lady Michelle Obama urged parents to make small changes to improve their children’s health and reduce the risk of obesity, Chicago Breaking News reports. Obama was introduced by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who called her the “country’s leading advocate for health and wellness.” In her address, the first lady tackled practical, day-to-day challenges many Americans face when it comes to good nutrition “such as long work hours, dirty or unsafe neighborhood playgrounds, a lack of healthy food options [and] unhealthy take-out food.” During her speech, the first lady admitted that as recently as two years ago, she had “too often” relied on drive-thru restaurants to feed her daughters until receiving a wake-up call from her children’s pediatrician. The first lady recommended small changes, such as adding more fruits and vegetables to meals and reducing consumption of sugary drinks by switching to water. Obama, who called childhood obesity a “major public health threat right now,” also encouraged parents to urge their kids to be more active, even in front of the television, and to do more cooking at home. The first lady also urged the crowd to consider medical experts’ warnings that “for the first time in the history of our nation, the next generation may be on track to having a shorter lifespan than this generation, and their parents” (Skiba, Chicago Breaking News, 10/13/09; CBS News, 10/13/09).

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Original Source: http://www.rwjf.org/childhoodobesity/digest.jsp?id=23962

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