E-Newsletter
September 2009


SPOTLIGHT

PUBLICATIONS

RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS

CHILDHOOD OBESITY NEWS


SPOTLIGHT

Proposals Being Accepted for a Research Study to Examine Existing Community Programs; Winner to Work in Partnership with NCCOR

Sept. 8, 2009, NCCOR

Activities of the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) have led to plans for a new nationwide study that will examine outcomes associated with characteristics of community programs and policies to reduce childhood obesity rates. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – in collaboration with NCCOR partners – is soliciting proposals for a Research Coordinating Center (RCC) to lead a research program titled “Studying Community Programs to Reduce Childhood Obesity.” A Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) No. NHLBI-HC-10-15 was released Aug. 18. The deadline for proposals is Nov. 18, and the contract will be awarded about one year from now.

The purpose of this initiative is to support a nationwide scientific study of communities that vary in their local programming and policies addressing childhood obesity. Such local efforts can include educational, behavioral, environmental, and/or other activities aimed at influencing energy balance in youth through diet and physical activity. The intent is to fund one study, where a nationwide sample of communities will be identified, data obtained, and analyses conducted. This solicitation will not fund community programs because the purpose is to assess what is already going on in communities around the nation.

The funded RCC will work in close partnership with members of NCCOR to design and implement the research. The goal is to inform public-health practice and policy by identifying community approaches that may work best for reducing childhood obesity rates. The study will also help identify future research directions.

A Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) is a type of Funding Opportunity Announcement that is used by the government when an objective has been identified, but the specific approaches are to be defined by experts submitting proposals. The intent of a BAA is to encourage the submission of creative and innovative approaches to specific research areas identified by the Government. A proposal submitted in response to this BAA must present detailed technical and business plans designed to meet the BAA’s research and technical objectives.

NCCOR partners are excited by this opportunity to partner fully on an important scientific study that can provide very valuable information – information that should be extremely helpful to local communities in their efforts to address the problem of growing rates of childhood obesity.

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PUBLICATIONS

Local Government Actions to Prevent Childhood Obesity

Sept. 1, 2009, Institute of Medicine and National Research Council

This report is the first in a series of publications dedicated to providing brief, succinct information on childhood obesity prevention specifically for policymakers. Funded by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the report focuses on one of the major recommendations in two previous Institute of Medicine (IoM) reports on obesity (Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance and Progress in Preventing Childhood Obesity: How Do We Measure Up?) regarding the vital role of local governments in helping to prevent childhood obesity.

When people look back 50 years from now, childhood obesity may well stand out as the most important public health issue of our time. The prevalence of childhood obesity has tripled in just three decades, contributing to the ever more frequent appearance in children and youth of what were once chronic diseases and conditions usually associated with adulthood — “adultonset” diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. There is no more sobering thought than the growing consensus that the life expectancy of many of today’s children will be less than their parents’ because of the impact of early and continuing obesity on their health.

DOWNLOAD A PDF OF THIS REPORT

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Hartline-Grafton HL, Rose D, Johnson CC, Rice JC, Webber LS. Are School Employees Role Models of Healthful Eating? Dietary Intake Results from the ACTION Worksite Wellness Trial. J Am Diet Assoc 2009; 109:1548-1556.

ABSTRACT
Background: Little is known about the dietary intake of school employees, a key target group for improving school nutrition.
Objective To investigate selected dietary variables and weight status among elementary school personnel.
Design: Cross-sectional, descriptive study.
Subjects/setting: Elementary school employees (n=373) from 22 schools in a suburban parish (county) of southeastern Louisiana were randomly selected for evaluation at baseline of ACTION, a school-based worksite wellness trial.
Methods: Two 24-hour dietary recalls were administered on nonconsecutive days by registered dietitians using the Nutrition Data System for Research. Height and weight were measured by trained examiners and body mass index calculated as kg/m2.
Statistical analyses performed: Descriptive analyses characterized energy, macronutrient, fiber, and MyPyramid food group consumption. Inferential statistics
(t tests, analysis of variance, x2) were used to examine differences in intake and compliance with recommendations by demographic and weight status categories.
Results Approximately 31 percent and 40 percent of the sample were overweight and obese, respectively, with higher obesity rates than state and national estimates. Mean daily energy intake among women was 1,862±492 kcal and among men was 2,668±796 kcal. Obese employees consumed more energy (+288 kcal, P < 0.001) and more energy from fat (P < 0.001) than those who were normal weight. Approximately 45 percent of the sample exceeded dietary fat recommendations. On average, only 9 percent had fiber intakes at or above their Adequate Intake, which is consistent with the finding that more than 25 percent of employees did not eat fruit, 58 percent did not eat dark-green vegetables, and 45 percent did not eat whole grains on the recalled days. Only 7 percent of employees met the MyPyramid recommendations for fruits or vegetables, and 14 percent of the sample met those for milk and dairy foods.
Conclusions: These results suggest that greater attention be directed to understanding and improving the diets of school employees given their high rates of overweight and obesity, poor diets, and important role in student health.

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Stevens J, Truesdale KP, Wang C-H, Cai J. Prevention of Excess Gain. Int J Obes 2009; 158:1-4.

Obesity prevention trials are designed to promote healthy weight. The success of these trials is often assessed using one of three metrics – means, incidence, or prevalence. In this study, we point out conceptual shortcomings of these metrics and introduce an alternative that we call ‘excess gain.’ A mathematical demonstration using simulated data shows a scenario in which the statistical power of excess gain compares favorably with that of incidence and prevalence. Prevention of excess gain communicates an easily understood public health message that is applicable to all individuals regardless of weight status.

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Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center to Prevent Childhood Obesity. Child Nutrition Programs: Federal Options and Opportunities

Childhood obesity threatens the health of our young people and their future potential. Today, more than 23 million children and adolescents in the United States – nearly one in three – are overweight or obese, putting them at risk for serious, even life-threatening problems. As we look for solutions to this epidemic, we must improve nutrition and increase physical activity through policy and environmental change. In the coming months through the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act, Congress has an important opportunity to improve and enhance federally-funded child nutrition programs, including the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Combined, these programs touch the lives of millions of children and adolescents each and every day.

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RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS

Restrictive Diet for Kids May Backfire

Aug. 14, 2009, Atlanta Journal Constitution

Parents who try to battle the childhood obesity epidemic by forbidding their kids to eat certain foods are not going to keep them from gaining weight and may actually be making the situation worse, researchers say.

Parents play a critical role in helping children make food choices that will allow them to maintain a healthy weight, according to doctors and experts. But success depends on using the right approach.

A child’s inhibitory control, which is similar to self-control, is the key factor in controlling weight. The concept is explored in an article published online in advance of release in an upcoming print issue of the Journal of Pediatrics.

In the study, Stephanie Anzman and Leann Birch, of the Center for Childhood Obesity Research at Pennsylvania State University, focused on 197 non-Hispanic white girls.

They collected information from the girls and their parents over 10 years, starting when the children were 5 years old. The researchers recorded the parents’ income and education level, and the body-mass index (BMI) of children and parents, and asked the children if their parents restricted certain foods. Mothers also were asked to describe their child’s level of self-control.

According to the study authors, girls deemed to have less self-control had higher BMIs and gained more weight compared with their peers who were better at self-regulation. They also noted that girls who lacked self-control were about twice as likely to be overweight by age 15.

The researchers found that, among the study participants, the girls at the highest risk for weight gain were those with high levels of perceived parental food restrictions and low self-control.

“Parental attempts to help children with lower self-control by restricting their access to favorite snack foods can make the forbidden foods more attractive, thereby exacerbating the problem,” Anzman said in a news release from the journal’s publisher.

A better idea for parents is to help their children learn some control by allowing them to choose between healthy options. And it is better to not keep restricted foods in the house, she added.

“That way,” Anzman said, “it is not necessary to constantly tell children they cannot have the foods they want.”

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Original Source:
http://www.ajc.com/health/content/shared-auto/healthnews/bhvr/629973.html

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Unsafe Urban Neighborhoods Linked to Teen Weight

Aug. 27, 2009, Reuters Health

Living in an urban neighborhood that feels unsafe may be a factor in a teen’s risk for being overweight, hints a study of public high school students in Boston, Mass.

Of the 1,140 students surveyed, nearly 12 percent said they rarely felt safe in their neighborhood and 9 percent said they never felt safe in their neighborhood.

These students were about 1.2 times more likely to be overweight or at risk for becoming overweight compared with students who said they sometimes or always felt safe (44 percent) or always felt safe (36 percent), researchers report in the online journal Public Health, published by BioMed Central.

The risk for being overweight was in excess of 1.5 times among students who listed their race as “other” – Asian, South Asian, American Indian, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and other Pacific Islanders – and said they never or rarely felt safe.

That adolescents feel unsafe in their neighborhoods “is concerning on its own,” Dustin T. Duncan, a doctoral candidate at Harvard School of Public Health, noted in an email to Reuters Health. That neighborhood safety may be a factor in overweight among teens is doubly concerning, he added.

Duncan’s team analyzed health behaviors, use of school and community resources, and exposure to violence reported in the 2006 Boston Youth Survey. This representative sampling of students in grades 9 through 12 included non-Hispanic Blacks (47 percent) and Hispanics (30 percent). Non-Hispanic Whites and “other” races comprised 13 percent and 11 percent.

Overall, half the Hispanic students were at risk for being overweight, as were 46 percent, 39 percent, and 34 percent of students who were black, white, and other race or ethnicity. Male and female (58 percent) students had similar risk for being overweight.

The researchers report a greater proportion (68 percent) of the students who rarely or never felt safe said gang violence was a serious neighborhood problem. Nearly 18 percent of these teens had witnessed assaults in the previous year.

By contrast, of those who said they sometimes or always felt safe, 44 percent and 11 percent, respectively, cited gang violence as a problem and had witnessed assaults.

Duncan’s group, therefore, suggests policies and programs to address gang activity and violence may also help prevent urban-living teens from becoming overweight.

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Original Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/healthNews/idUSTRE57N43T20090824

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Obesity Is a Poor Gauge for Detecting High Cholesterol Levels in Children

Aug. 3, 2009, ScienceDaily

With the epidemic of childhood obesity in the United States, there is concern that overweight and obese children need to be screened for chronic medical conditions, including high cholesterol levels.

However, body fat is not an effective indicator of high cholesterol in children, according to new University of Michigan research.

Those are the findings of a U-M study led by U-M pediatricians Joyce Lee, M.D., MPH, and Matthew Davis, M.D., MAPP, which appeared in the August edition of the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

“We found, actually, that using body mass index to find kids with high cholesterol does not work well. There were many overweight and obese kids who had normal cholesterol, and there were a fair number of healthy-weight kids who had high cholesterol,” says Lee, a member of the Child Health Evaluation and Research (CHEAR) Unit in the U-M Division of General Pediatrics, and assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases at the U-M Medical School.

The study was conducted after the American Academy of Pediatrics revised its cholesterol screening guidelines in July 2008, advocating a cholesterol check for kids who have increased risk of heart disease. For the most part, that means all children who are overweight or obese, which is about 30 percent of kids in the United States.

“Our results indicate that the AAP guidelines for cholesterol screening in kids may need to be revised,” says Lee. “Otherwise, we may be missing high cholesterol in some kids and unnecessarily testing others.”

The authors performed the study with national data from thousands of children to see whether body mass index (BMI) can be used as a reliable way to find kids with high cholesterol levels. They looked at the relationship between BMI and two different cholesterol measures, including total cholesterol and low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, i.e. “bad” cholesterol.

For this study, children were classified as overweight if their BMI was between the 85th and 95th percentiles, and defined as obese if their BMI was greater than the 95th percentile for weight based on age and height. Children had abnormal levels if they had a total cholesterol greater than 200 mg/dl or LDL cholesterol level of greater than 130 mg/dl.

This study found that screening all overweight or obese children would identify approximately 50 percent of children with abnormal cholesterol levels but would also lead to unnecessary testing for up to 30 percent of children.

Other studies have looked at additional screening strategies for abnormal cholesterol in children on the basis of having a family history of early heart disease or high cholesterol. But as Lee notes, “A positive family history also performs poorly for identifying children with high cholesterol levels. Therefore, it may be more efficient for the AAP to recommend a public health campaign to reduce cholesterol among all children, rather than screening high-risk groups.”

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Original Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090803172946.htm

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Study Suggests Infants Cared For in Another Home More Likely to Be Heavier Toddlers

Aug. 3, 2009, RWJF Childhood Obesity Digest

A study published in the August issue of Pediatrics suggests that infants who attend day care in someone else’s home are more likely to be overweight than their peers cared for in other settings, HealthDay News reports. Conducted by Harvard University researchers, the study was based on a sample of more than 1,100 women who began participating in the study while pregnant. Fifty-seven percent of the women placed their child in some form of day care before the infant was six months old. Infants cared for in day care centers spent an average of 11.3 hours per week there, those cared for at home by someone other than a parent averaged 9.6 hours per week, and those receiving care in someone else’s home, such as a family member, friend, neighbor or licensed care provider, averaged 11.7 hours per week. According to the data, children who were cared for in someone else’s home were more likely to be heavier than average than were children cared for either at home or in a day care center. For example, the researchers note that if two infants started in the 50th percentile for weight according to their height and age, the one cared for in someone else’s home would likely jump to the 55th percentile, while the one being cared for in an alternate setting would remain in the 50th percentile. The researchers suggest that a lack of activity among children cared for in the home setting could be the reason behind the weight disparities and recommend that parents and advocates speak with child care providers about maintaining a stimulating environment that does not include television and provides toys and activities that promote movement (Gordon, HealthDay News, 7/30/09; Pediatrics, August 2009 [subscription required]).

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Original Source: http://www.rwjf.org/childhoodobesity/digest.jsp?id=20726

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ADDITIONAL RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS

Screen Time Linked to Elevated Blood Pressure Among Young Children

Aug. 5, 2009, RWJF Childhood Obesity News Digest

A study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine suggests young children who spend a significant amount of time watching television and playing video games may have an increased risk for developing high blood pressure, HealthDay News reports. To evaluate the association between sedentary behavior and blood pressure, researchers asked 111 children ages 3 to 8 to wear a device that recorded activity levels for seven days, while their parents recorded how much time the children spent in sedentary activities such as watching television, playing video games, painting or sitting. The researchers also measured the children’s height, weight, fat mass and blood pressure. According to the researchers, the participating children were sedentary for an average of five hours per day and engaged in 1.5 hours of screen time, defined as the total amount of time spent watching television or videos, or playing computer or video games. With the exception of computer use, all screen time was associated with higher levels of systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure, even after adjusting for other variables. Noting that overall sedentary time was not associated with elevated blood pressure, the researchers conclude that other factors, such as food consumption, that may coincide with screen time might contribute to the elevated blood pressure. Calling the effects of obesity on blood pressure among children “an area of particular concern,” the researchers note that “the clustering of cardiovascular disease risk factors in overweight youth suggests that risks may be immediate and not just indicative of potential future problems.” (HealthDay News, 8/3/09; Gever, MedPage Today, 8/3/09; Rauscher, Reuters, 8/3/09; Martinez-Gomez et al., Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, August 2009 [subscription required])

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Original Source: http://www.rwjf.org/childhoodobesity/digest.jsp?id=20860

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Study Finds Obesity Rates Stabilizing Among Low-income, Preschool Children

July 24, 2009, RWJF Childhood Obesity News Digest

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that, although the obesity rate among low-income, preschool-age children remains high, it has stabilized, HealthDay News reports. Published in the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the study is based on data from the CDC’s Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System, a state-based surveillance system that monitors the nutritional status of children who are enrolled in federally funded programs from birth to age 4. The study found that the prevalence of obesity among children ages 2 to 4 from low-income families increased from 12.4 percent in 1998 to 14.5 percent in 2003 but increased just 0.1 percent between 2003 and 2008. Although the overall obesity rate in this group has remained stable, the researchers warn that, among American Indian and Alaska Native children, it increased approximately half of a percentage point each year between 2003 and 2008. These children had the highest obesity rate in 2008, at 21.2 percent, followed by Hispanic children who had an obesity rate of 18.5 percent. The lowest obesity rates were recorded among white, Asian or Pacific Islander, and black children, at 12.6 percent, 12.3 percent and 11.8 percent, respectively. Colorado and Hawaii were the only states with obesity rates at 10 percent or lower. Co-author Laurence M. Grummer-Strawn, chief of the CDC’s Maternal Child Nutrition Branch in the Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity, says that, although “we want to see much more improvement... it's at least good news that things are not continuing to get worse.” Noting that the study does not clarify the reason for this stabilization among low-income, preschool age children, Grummer-Strawn suggests that initiatives promoting breast feeding, the use of low-fat or skim milk, proper nutrition and physical activity could be contributing factors. According to William H. Dietz, M.D., director of the CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, the study serves as a reminder that “we must not become complacent in our efforts to reduce obesity among young children” (Reinberg, HealthDay News, 7/23/09; Fiore, MedPage Today, 7/23/09; Reuters, 7/23/09; Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 7/24/09).

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Original Source: http://www.rwjf.org/childhoodobesity/digest.jsp?id=20280

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CHILDHOOD OBESITY NEWS

Tax Junk Food, Drinks to Fight Childhood Obesity: Report

Sept. 1, 2009, Reuters

By Maggie Fox

A strongly worded report on child obesity recommends that state and local governments tax junk food and soft drinks, give tax breaks to grocery stores that open in blighted neighborhoods and build bike trails.

The report from the independent Institute of Medicine and National Research Council also suggests that governments limit television and video games in after-school programs, require restaurants to list calorie counts on their menus and open school playgrounds and athletic fields to communities.

“Childhood obesity poses a serious threat to health in the United States,” it reads. The problem cannot be solved by the federal government and communities need to act, it adds.

“This is not a report that says ‘this is what every community should do.’ This is a menu of options,” Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, vice president and chief medical officer of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, who chaired the panel that wrote the report, said in a telephone interview.

Obesity rates are soaring among U.S. children, and along with them rates of early heart disease, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes.

“The prevalence of childhood obesity has tripled in just three decades,” the report reads. Nearly 18 percent of U.S. adolescents are obese.

While the food and restaurant industry cites personal choice and a lack of exercise, many reports have shown that unhealthy food is cheaper, more readily available and more heavily marketed than more healthful foods.

Last week, the American Heart Association took on the $115 billion soft drink industry, saying the drinks are the No. 1 source of added sugars in the American diet.

The American Beverage Association, representing companies including PepsiCo, Coca-Cola Co and Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc, says sugar-sweetened drinks do not pose a particular health risk.

Using taxes

Taxes work, said the experts on the panel, commissioned by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The research around tobacco has shown that large increases in taxes on cigarettes has been the single most effective policy to reduce tobacco use,” said Mary Story, a dietitian and professor at the University of Minnesota.

“A 10 percent increase in the price of a sugar-sweetened beverage could reduce consumption by 8 [percent] to 10 percent.”

Most states do not use this money to fund obesity fighting efforts but they could, she said.

The report also recommends building sidewalks, ensuring schools have water fountains available so students do not have to use vending machines and changing public transport routes so people can reach grocery stores.

It cites communities that have encouraged grocery stores to build in neighborhoods designated as “food deserts,” or that have helped corner stores add fresh fruits and vegetables to shelves now loaded with soft drinks and snacks.

Some communities could divert money designated for crime, if that would be politically easier, it suggests. “For example, after-school recreation programs implemented to increase physical activity with obesity prevention in mind can help meet crime prevention goals by reducing opportunities for youth to be victims or perpetrators of crime,” the report reads.

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Original Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSTRE5800R320090901

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Obesity No. 1 Problem Cited in National Kids’ Health Poll

Aug. 11, 2009, The Detroit News

By Kimberly Hayes Taylor
ktaylor@detnews.com

Concern about obesity continues to rise and outrank all other health issues as the top concern for children in the United States, a University of Michigan study reports.

The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health shows that adults who believe childhood obesity is a big problem in the nation rose from 35 percent of adults in 2008 to 42 percent of adults in 2009. Obesity was ranked third in 2007.

For the first time, the national poll also indicates obesity is a top concern among whites, blacks and Hispanics. Last year, for example, obesity ranked highest with whites, while blacks ranked teen pregnancy highest. Hispanics put smoking in the top spot.

Dr. Matthew Davis, associate professor of pediatrics, internal medicine and public policy at the University of Michigan, says this year’s poll suggests parents finally are getting the message that obesity is a serious condition that can affect their children for life.

“A lot of sources of information for parents are saying the same thing about childhood obesity: It’s not just a phase, and it’s not something that will go away in time,” Davis said.

“When obesity starts early in life, we know that the chances of getting diabetes and high blood pressure and heart disease all go up. Those are the biggest health problems that we as Americans face, and they are all strongly related to obesity.”

In the same study, only one-third of parents gave their children’s public schools an “A” grade for offering healthy food choices, according to AnnArbor.com.

Researchers surveyed more than 1,000 randomly selected parents and determined that while 33 percent of parents rated the availability of healthy food choices in their children’s school as high, 12 percent gave their children’s school a “D” or an “F.” Researchers note, however, that primary schools fared slightly better than secondary schools, with 37 percent of parents of primary school children awarding an “A,” compared to 21 percent of parents with children in secondary schools. Moreover, parents who rated obesity as a big problem for children in their communities were more likely to give schools lower grades, with 15 percent giving a grade of “D” or “F,” compared to 11 percent of parents who did not perceive obesity as a significant issue. The report indicates that parental perception of the availability of healthy food choices in schools did not differ based on household income, geographical location, or race and ethnicity.

Researchers acknowledge that raising the nutritional standards of the foods sold in schools will likely fall to Congress, especially as they reconsider the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act, which funds school breakfast and lunch programs. Furthermore, the report encourages parents to work directly with their children’s schools to increase the availability of healthy food choices, as school menus are determined locally.

Other top health concerns in the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll included drug abuse (second place) and smoking and tobacco use (third place). See the top 10 list of health concerns below.

1. Childhood obesity (42%)
2. Drug abuse (36%)
3. Smoking and tobacco use (32%)
4. Bullying (31%)
5. Internet safety (31%)
6. Child abuse and neglect (29%)
7. Alcohol abuse (26%)
8. Stress (26%)
9. Not enough opportunities for physical activity (25%)
10. Teen pregnancy (24%)

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Original Sources:
http://www.detnews.com/article/20090811/LIFESTYLE03/908110306/1040/
LIFESTYLE03/Obesity-No.-1-problem-cited-in-national-kids--health-poll

http://www.examiner.com/x-14227-Phoenix-Fitness-Trends-Examiner~y2009m8d11
-National-poll-on-childrens-health-rates-childhood-obesity-as-number-one-concern

http://www.rwjf.org/childhoodobesity/digest.jsp?id=21721

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Campaign to Make School-Lunch Menus Healthier Calls Attention to Obama Daughters

Aug., 5, 2009, TodayShow.com

By Laura T. Coffey

She’s cute, sassy, playful, and sincere. At age 8, Jasmine Messiah makes an ideal poster child for a campaign that targets the Obamas and Congress and amounts to an old-fashioned food fight.

On posters that began popping up this week near the Capitol in Washington, DC, little Jasmine beams at the camera with her arms crossed and shares this message: “President Obama’s daughters get healthy school lunches. Why don’t I?”

The posters are part of a campaign that will run through the month of August in an effort to influence Congress to reform the Child Nutrition Act, which dictates the nutritional content of lunches in public schools. Masterminded by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, the campaign seeks to have more vegetables, fruits and low-fat vegetarian options appear on school-lunch menus.

“At most schools, children have no alternative at all to the meaty, cheesy, high-calorie fare that contributes to childhood obesity and health problems,” Dr. Neal Barnard, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, said in a statement. “Congress needs to help all schools, no matter how disadvantaged, to provide vegetables, fruits and healthy nondairy vegetarian choices, and should provide the funding to make that feasible.”

Pepperoni pizza vs. vegetarian chili

Sasha and Malia Obama attend Sidwell Friends School, an exclusive private school in the Washington area that makes vegetarian meals available to its students.

Jasmine, who attends a public school in Miami, wrote a letter to the first daughters and asked for their help with her enthusiastic push to bring more veggies and fruits to kids across America.

“I’m glad that your school, Sidwell Friends, already has lots of healthy options in the cafeteria, including vegetarian chili and roasted vegetable pizza,” Jasmine wrote.

“The problem is that most students eat unhealthy foods, like hot dogs, pepperoni pizza, ham sandwiches and cheeseburgers, every day at school,” Jasmine added in her letter. “A lot of schools, including mine, don’t offer enough healthy fruits, vegetables and vegetarian meals.”

The White House has yet to respond to the campaign; Congress is scheduled to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act in the coming weeks. The posters are plastered around the Union Station Amtrak and commuter rail station in D.C., where many lawmakers are likely to see them.

A story on the Web site Politico.com speculated that the campaign could anger the Obamas and spark a negative backlash because it targets Malia and Sasha so prominently.

“This is not the way to win the heart of the president,” Darrell West, governance studies director at Brookings Institution, told Politico.com. “It’s dangerous to target Obama’s daughters because many people view family members as off-limits for political advocacy. That’s especially relevant in this case because his daughters are so young.”

Officials with the Physicians Committee, which spent $20,000 producing the posters for the campaign, said that’s a risk they’re willing to shoulder.

“I am not concerned with the White House being disappointed in this ad,” Susan Levin, nutrition education director of the Physicians Committee, told Politico.com. “I’m more concerned that Congress gets the message. And if they get it because it raises Obama’s eyebrow, so be it.”

Childhood obesity on the rise

In its campaign, the Physicians Committee notes that childhood obesity is at a record high and that “one in three young people born in 2000 will develop diabetes at some point in his or her life, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

“Vegetarian, especially vegan, meals are typically low in fat and calories,” the committee said. “Scientific evidence shows that consuming more plant-based foods can help prevent obesity, heart disease and diabetes.”

Jasmine Messiah said she brings fruits and vegetables to school with her because she genuinely enjoys them.

“Sometimes I bring in broccoli and carrots and my friends are like, ‘Ewww, this is disgusting,’ ” she told The Miami Herald. “But I think if they tried it more, they’d like it.”

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Original Source:
http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/32301383/ns/today-parenting_and_family/

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ADDITIONAL CHILDHOOD OBESITY NEWS

Report Finds Modest Improvements in School Food Nutrition

Aug. 11, 2009, RWJF Childhood Obesity News Digest

The biannual State of School Nutrition report by the School Nutrition Association has found that, although the nutrition content of school meals is slowly improving, funding remains a barrier to providing healthy food options, the New York Times reports. The report, based on a survey of more than 1,200 school food service directors in 49 states, found that, although nearly all school districts still rely on highly processed commodity meat and dairy products, more school nutrition programs are now offering healthy options, with the greatest gains being seen among vegetarian and low-fat food offerings. The number of schools providing vegetarian menu items increased 12 percent since 2007, to 64 percent, and the number of schools offering low-fat prepared and packaged foods increased 11.5 percent during that time. Fat-free or low-fat milk, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grain items were also served in most school districts. In addition, 37 percent of schools now serve locally grown fruits and vegetables, and 21 percent of districts report considering adding local produce to their menus. Meanwhile, 77 percent of school food service directors cited the high cost of food as the biggest challenge to providing students with healthy, nutritious meals—and nearly 60 percent of districts have increased the price of lunch since 2008. Dora Rivas, president of the School Nutrition Association and executive director of Food and Child Nutrition Services for the Dallas Independent School District, says the “survey results show that, despite the difficult economy, school nutrition professionals nationwide continue to provide children with high quality, nutritious foods and educate them on making the right food choices” (Severson, New York Times, 8/10/09 [registration required]; School Nutrition Association release, 8/11/09).

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Original Source: http://www.rwjf.org/childhoodobesity/digest.jsp?id=21127

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YMCA of the USA Launches Initiative to Curb Childhood Obesity

Aug. 10, 2009, RWJF Childhood Obesity News Digest

YMCA of the USA (Y-USA) has selected 16 community branches in Connecticut, Kentucky and Tennessee to launch a new childhood obesity prevention effort, the Business Courier of Cincinnati reports. Supported by a five-year, $6.8 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the Activate America: Pioneering Healthy Communities (PHC) initiative will provide two-year grants to help local YMCAs develop statewide, community-based networks that encourage healthy eating and exercise. In 2010 the program will expand to three additional states, which will be selected based partially on their childhood obesity rates. YMCA state alliances will collaborate with state policy-makers and other leaders to examine existing policies regarding childhood obesity and develop a state action plan that addresses obesity, physical inactivity and poor nutrition. Meanwhile, the 16 community teams will ensure that each community-level action plan aligns with the statewide initiatives, will help community leaders assess how environments influence health, and will evaluate the role public policy may play in influencing and sustaining change. According to James Marks, M.D., senior vice president and director of RWJF’s Health Group, the PHC programs launched in the initial 16 communities will help “children and their families lead healthier lives.” Echoing that sentiment, Neil Nicoll, president and chief executive officer of Y-USA, notes that the PHC programs help make healthy behaviors, such as physical activity and healthy eating, “an easier choice” for communities (Business Courier of Cincinnati, 8/6/09; Y-USA release, 8/5/09).

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Original Source: http://www.rwjf.org/childhoodobesity/digest.jsp?id=21083

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Professional Associations Develop New Obesity Certification Program for Physicians

Aug. 6, 2009, RWJF Childhood Obesity News Digest

Ten professional associations have jointly developed an obesity medicine certification program for practicing physicians, USA Today reports. Initiated by The Obesity Society, the Obesity Medicine Physician Certification (OMPC) program and its accompanying examination were created by a Practice Analysis Task Force and reviewed by two focus group panels and 25 experts in the areas of nutrition, exercise, psychology and medicine. Two-hundred and thirty-eight physicians from fields including internal medicine, pediatrics and family practice also completed an online survey to gauge the relevance of the planned certification program. An OMPC Inter-Societal Steering Committee is now drafting questions to be included in the examination, the passage of which will be necessary to obtain certification. In addition to The Obesity Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, American Diabetes Association, American Gastroenterological Association, American Heart Association, American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, American Society for Nutrition, and The Endocrine Society helped develop the OMPC program (Hellmich, USA Today, 8/4/09; The Obesity Society release, 8/5/09).

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Original Source: http://www.rwjf.org/childhoodobesity/digest.jsp?id=20923

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