E-Newsletter
January 2011


SPOTLIGHT

PUBLICATIONS and TOOLS

RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS

CHILDHOOD OBESITY NEWS


SPOTLIGHT

Childhood Obesity Can Begin as Early as Age 9 Months, Researchers Find

Dec. 31, 2010, Los Angeles Times

By Eryn Brown

Everyone loves a roly-poly baby. Still, there is such a thing as an overweight infant, and obese babies – even those as young as 9 months old – are predisposed to being obese later in life, researchers say in the January-February issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion.

Childhood obesity is a growing public health problem in the United States. It has been linked to psychological problems, asthma, cardiovascular troubles and a greater chance of developing diabetes.

Hoping to better understand the factors associated with being obese at a very early age – and possibly help parents and health advocates stave off its ill effects – lead author Brian G. Moss of Wayne State University and William H. Yeaton of the University of Michigan analyzed data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort, a nationally representative sample of American children born in 2001.

The data included height, weight and demographic characteristics of 8,900 9-month-old babies and 7,500 2-year-old toddlers. Obese children were defined as those who exceeded the 95th percentile for body-mass index (as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), and those between the 85th and 95th percentile were considered “at risk.”

Moss and Yeaton found that 32 percent of children were either obese or at risk of obesity by [9 months old]. That figure increased to 34 percent by the time the [children reached 2 years old].

“We weren’t surprised by the prevalence rates we found in our study, but we were surprised the trend began at such a young age,” Moss said in a statement.

Among the patterns that emerged:

  • Boys were more at risk than girls (this contradicted earlier research).
  • Latinos had the highest risk.
  • Geographic location was not consistently associated with being obese or at risk.
  • The family’s socioeconomic status didn’t seem to make a difference at 9 months of age. But by age 2, the kids in the bottom economic 20 percent were most likely to be obese or at risk, while those in the top 20 percent were least likely to be obese or at risk.

No one is suggesting that babies be put on a diet.

But knowing more about the demographic characteristics of very young children who are more likely to become obese could help health officials and parents prevent later health troubles by promoting healthier eating and lifestyle choices.

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Original Source: http://www.latimes.com/health/boostershots/la-heb-obese-babies-20101231,0,7619490.story

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PUBLICATIONS

Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 Fact Sheet
and Editorial Perspective

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 represents a major step forward in our nation’s effort to provide all children with healthy food in schools. Increasingly schools are playing a central role in children’s health. Over 31 million children receive meals through the school lunch program and many children receive most, if not all, of their meals at school. With over seventeen million children living in food insecure households and one out of every three children in America now considered overweight or obese, schools often are on the front lines of our national challenge to combat childhood obesity and improve children’s overall health. This legislation includes significant improvements that will help provide children with healthier and more nutritious food options, educate children about making healthy food choices, and teach children healthy habits that can last a lifetime.

VIEW THE FACT SHEET

Smarter Nutrition

Dec. 18, 2010, The Courier-Journal Editorial Board

… On Dec. 13, President Obama signed into law the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The law sets new childhood nutrition standards, expands the number of students in the free lunch program, gives the federal government more say in what food is and isn’t sold in public schools, and aims to address both childhood obesity and childhood hunger — both of which are too prevalent in the United States. More than 17 million of the nation’s children live in “food insecure” homes and depend on schools for their meals, and one in three American children are either overweight or obese.

The act was supported by the President’s secretaries of Agriculture (“a great day for kids,” said Tom Vilsack), Health and Human Services (“more kids will have access to healthy, balanced and nutritious school lunches,” said Kathleen Sebelius) and Education (“the most significant step forward in the National School Lunch program in 30 years,” said Arne Duncan). …

Sample menus show the marked difference between “before” and “after” school lunches: A cheese pizza with canned pineapple, tater tots and low-fat chocolate milk, for example, will be replaced with a slice of whole-wheat cheese pizza, baked sweet potato fries, grape tomatoes, applesauce, 1 percent milk and low-fat Ranch dip. …

U.S. Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn.: “As a physician, I know smart nutrition leads to healthy and productive lives. With 36.5 percent of our children in Tennessee being overweight, this act goes a long way in ensuring that kids in Tennessee and around the country will have the healthy nutrition they deserve.”

In voicing his support for the act, Sen. Frist enunciated why it should be regarded as very good news for Kentucky’s families and children, too.

More than 32 percent of Kentucky’s population is considered obese. The new standards should be considered a first line of defense for the state’s children against that fate, as well as its attendant health hazards. They also should be considered fortification against the wants of poverty and hunger, and the drains and impediments they impose, especially on our youngest citizens.

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Original Source: http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20101218/OPINION01/312180016/Smarter%20nutrition

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CDC Tool Highlights State Obesity Prevention Programs

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity (DNPAO) has developed a new tool to track obesity policy on the state level. The tool highlights current state activities related to CDC recommended strategies to prevent and control obesity and other chronic disease through healthful eating and physical activity.

VIEW STATE ACTIVITIES HERE

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Obesity and Socioeconomic Status in Children and Adolescents: United States, 2005–2008

December 2010, National Center for Health Statistics Data Brief

In 2007–2008 almost 17 percent of children and adolescents aged 2–19 years were obese. Childhood obesity often tracks to adulthood and, in the short run, childhood obesity can lead to psychosocial problems and cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and abnormal glucose tolerance or diabetes. Studies have suggested that obesity is greater in the low income population than in higher income individuals. This data brief presents the most recent national data on childhood obesity and its association with poverty income ratio (PIR) and education of household head. Results are presented by sex and race and ethnicity.

DOWNLOAD A PDF OF THIS PUBLICATION

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RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS

Video Games Get Kids to Eat More Fruit, Vegetables

Dec. 6, 2010, AFP

After labeled as a key cause of the rising rate of U.S. childhood obesity, video games got a reprieve in December as a new study showed they can be used to encourage kids to eat healthier foods.

The study, conducted in the United States, where nearly one in five 6- to 19-year-olds is obese, found that children who played certain “serious” video games … increased the amount of fruit and vegetables they ate per day by around one serving.

That is a useful step toward fighting childhood flab because “increased fruit and vegetable intakes have been associated with decreased risk of obesity,” says the study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Baylor College of Medicine professor Tom Baranowski, who led the study, said the video games “Escape from Diab” and “Nanoswarm,” which were designed to change diet and physical activity behaviors to reduce the risk of becoming obese and diabetic, “motivated players to substantially improve diet behaviors.

“Diab and Nanoswarm were designed as epic video game adventures, comparable to commercial quality video games. These games incorporate a broad diversity of behavior change procedures woven in and around engrossing stories,” he said. Playing both games several times “had a meaningful effect on dietary fruit and vegetable intake,” the study found.

But while that was good news, the bad news was that the children did not get more exercise and even with their increased intake of healthy foods, they still failed to eat the doctor-recommended minimum daily amount of fruit and vegetables. Health professionals recommend that children eat five servings a day of fruit or vegetables and get an hour of moderate to vigorous exercise.

“Serious video games hold promise, but their effectiveness and mechanisms of change among youth need to be more thoroughly investigated,” said Baranowski.

The childhood obesity rate in the United States has tripled in 30 years, with experts blaming the rise on everything from a poor diet based on processed foods to kids spending too much time in front of the television or playing computer games when they could be outside exercising.

Obese children are more likely than their normal-weight counterparts to grow up to be obese adults, to suffer from a number of obesity-related conditions including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and fatty liver disease, and to die prematurely of any cause, various studies have found.

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Original Source:
http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iLrWa_AGtgubmT3ODv0aNbbwWSJA?
docId=CNG.3c86e1065eee2cfd740284f4a84f3555.791

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Study Sheds New Light on Childhood Obesity Epidemic

Dec. 6, 2010, PRNewswire

Scientists may have discovered a new trend in childhood obesity, according to research published this month in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise , the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.

In comparing physical activity levels among American children, researchers discovered that the most overweight and obese ethnic groups are also some of the most active. This work adds to a growing understanding of the complex relationships among physical activity, nutrition, weight management, fitness, and health.

The study “Physical activity in U.S. youth: Effect of race/ethnicity, age, gender, and weight status,” reports that of the three ethnic groups compared – Caucasian, black and Mexican-American – Caucasian children are overall the least active. Black children, on the other hand, are the most active. This finding is surprising, experts say, because the highest prevalence of obesity occurs in some of the more active groups – black and Mexican-American children.

“Contrary to our expectations, higher levels of physical activity were not associated with lower rates of obesity across the race and ethnic groups,” said Britni Belcher, MPH, the lead author of the study.

The research team, representing the University of Southern California and National Institutes of Health, compared 3,106 American children, looking at age, race/ethnicity, body mass index, physical activity and dietary intake. Accelerometers measured participants’ physical activity for four days, providing data on each child’s levels of sedentary, moderate, vigorous, and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Researchers suggest that general predisposition to obesity, socioeconomic status, and cultural differences in behavior may play a role in the study’s findings.

“This paradox may be accounted for by the fact that non-Hispanic white youth may spend more time in activities not captured well by accelerometry, such as swimming or bicycling,” said Donna Spruijt-Metz, PhD, associate professor at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine and senior author. “These differences could also be attributed to the higher socioeconomic status found in the non-Hispanic white youth because higher socioeconomic status has been related to lower risk of obesity.”

The study also finds that children are less active after they hit puberty, as the 6-11 age group engaged in twice as much physical activity as children in the 12-15 and 16-19 age groups. Additionally, Spruijt-Metz and her colleagues find that males engage in more physical activity than females, irrespective of race or ethnic group. In fact, females of normal weight generally achieved less physical activity than their obese male counterparts.

Data from this study are from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Study, a cross-sectional health interview survey. All analyses were conducted in SAS 9.1 (SAS Institute, Inc.) using specialized procedures. The conclusions outlined in this news release are those of the researchers only, and should not be construed as an official statement of the American College of Sports Medicine.

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Original Source: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/study-sheds-new-light-on-childhood-obesity-epidemic-111379384.html

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British Research: Overweight More Common in Girls than Boys

Dec. 7, 2010, TheMedGuru.com

By Neharika Sabharwal

A new study delving into the gender differences in childhood obesity found that young girls in Britain are more likely to be overweight than boys.

The researchers found that by age 7, around one in four girls have weight issues compared with just one in six boys.

Experts theorize that more sedentary lives in front of televisions and computers, less physical activity, and too much pampering from parents may be responsible for girls being heavier than their male counterparts.

“Girls and only children are more likely to become overweight between age 5 and age 7,” said the study’s lead author, Alice Sullivan. “It is not clear whether the increased risk for girls is due to them being over-fed compared to boys, or because they are involved in less physical activity – perhaps due to the over-protectiveness of parents – or some combination of the two.”

“Similarly, we do not know whether only children are less active due to lack of siblings, or over-fed by indulgent parents. Either way, making parents aware of the increased risk to girls and only children may help to modify their behavior,” Sullivan said.

[Conducted by the University of London’s Institute of Education, the study traced the changes in children’s weight from infancy to age 7].

The researchers analyzed the body weights of 11,000 children, born between 2000 and 2002, who were part of the Millennium Cohort Study.

The investigators found that apart from gender, the number of siblings [in a family also affected weight]. It was noted that 7-year-olds without brothers and sisters were 25 percent more inclined to be overweight than those with one sibling.

Also, the odds of obesity in an only child rose by 30 percent compared to those with two siblings. The study also found that kids who were heavier by age 5 were 25 times more likely to have weight problems at age 7 as opposed to children of normal weight.

Another interesting aspect of the study was that kids whose parents were obese or inclined to smoke were also likely to be overweight.

The researchers stated, “The importance of parents’, and especially mothers’ BMI, suggests that overweight is a family problem, and health messages need to be targeted at mothers in particular.

“Childhood overweight appears to be primarily due to an obesogenic home environment rather than individual child level factors.”

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Original Source: http://www.themedguru.com/20101207/newsfeature/girls-more-likely-be-fatter-boys-7-years-study-86142584.html

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CHILDHOOD OBESITY NEWS

Frustration Over School Gardens Takes Root

Jan. 2, 2011, The Washington Post

By Michael Birnbaum

Charlotte Schoeneman thought her daughter’s Takoma Park school would welcome a parent proposal to start a vegetable garden; the city typically embraces all things green.

But she and other Montgomery County parents were rebuffed, told that one person’s tomato is another one’s maintenance nightmare. School officials cited allergies, pests and possible summertime neglect as reasons for concern.

The parents, who were inspired in part by first lady Michelle Obama’s national campaign to fight childhood obesity, said they’re puzzled by the school system’s decision. In Washington, DC, which has the highest rate of adolescent obesity in the country, several public schools have gardens, and a recently passed law encourages more. Arlington County boasts about 25 (gardens).

“Vegetable gardens teach kids that there’s more to a meal than just chicken nuggets on a plastic tray,” Schoeneman said. Schoeneman said that she and other members of the Takoma Park Elementary School PTA have worked to improve food at the school, though their victories have been minor at best. The school’s principal nixed a proposal to use school property for a garden, Schoeneman said, saying she was worried about attracting pests.

Schoeneman said she enjoys spending time with her second-grade daughter in their own Takoma Park vegetable garden, which attracts nary a rat.

“If you had a fruit tree, you could see the fruit growing on the tree,” Schoeneman said. “If you had a little plot, you could have beans and some chard and some onions. You could watch those things growing on their own.”

Montgomery County’s handful of school vegetable gardens came about only because some schools went rogue and built them without central office permission. Parents whisper about them and try to shield them from publicity.

A February 2010 letter from Superintendent Jerry D. Weast to the school board outlined his concerns.

“Because vegetable gardens are a food source for pests, create liabilities for children with food allergies, and have other associated concerns, the Department of Facilities Management staff has not approved gardens designed to produce food,” he wrote.

He suggested instead that the school system work with the Montgomery Department of Parks to build gardens on park property near school sites. Parents say that’s not a meaningful option for teachers who want to make growing food part of the school day.

When the gardens are off school grounds, “it’s kind of pointless, because it’s not acting within the curriculum, and the teachers couldn’t embrace it,” said Kristen Dill, another Takoma Park Elementary parent. She has a degree in horticulture and grew up in Nebraska. But she’s been stymied in the suburban wilds of Montgomery County.

“Elsewhere, there’s so much energy right now” around vegetable gardens at schools, Dill said. In Montgomery, by contrast, “it feels like molasses,” she said.

School officials said they are working to develop standardized plans for container gardens that schools could use as soon as this spring. The school system also has allowed some property near administrative buildings - not schools - to be used for community vegetable gardens. But many parents and community advocates say that’s not enough.

“There are school systems around the country that are embracing this,” said Gordon Clark, director of Montgomery Victory Gardens, a group pushing for community gardens. “Any school that wants to do it should have some support from the school system to do it any way they want.”

Parents and teachers around Montgomery County, including at Takoma Park and Piney Branch elementary schools and Montgomery Blair High School, have tried unsuccessfully to start vegetable gardens.

Montgomery officials said there is no ban against vegetable gardens and cite the schools that have them to prove their point. But they said they have discouraged them until now due to concerns about pests such as rats and groundhogs, who might be attracted to the vegetables, and with student allergies to certain crops. Nevertheless, they’re committed to the idea, they said.

“Any school in Montgomery County that wants a vegetable garden, there will be a way for them to have a vegetable garden,” said Sean Gallagher, assistant director of the school system’s Department of Facilities Management. Initially, he said, schools will have an approved template for a portable container garden. Later, “if a school has shown they can do really well with a container garden,” they might be able to move on to more traditional raised beds. “We just want to give them the right guidance to be successful.”

Many other local school systems have embraced gardens without such caveats. The first lady made headlines when she invited students from Bancroft Elementary School in the District to help plant the White House vegetable garden, and she made more headlines when she in turn visited Bancroft to help students plant theirs.

The DC Healthy Schools Act, passed in May, created a program that gives grants to DC schools to help them set up school gardens and encourages them to create compost piles as part of them. At least nine schools have vegetable gardens.

And in Arlington, the school system has encouraged gardens without exerting significant direct control. “There’s no central policy of ‘this is where your garden’s going to be, this is what you’re going to grow.’ It’s up to the school,” said Frank Bellavia, a spokesman for the school system.

Bellavia said he had not heard of any issues with pests or allergies and that someone from the community typically maintains the gardens over the summer. Vegetables from the school gardens usually are donated to a food bank, he said.

Meanwhile, Montgomery parents have lowered their expectations. “I’m not really hoping for much,” said Schoeneman. “I just keep plugging away, and maybe something good will happen as the tides turn.”

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Original Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/01/AR2011010102392.html

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More Students Opting out of Physical Education Classes

Dec. 14, 2010, ABC News

By Sarah Netter

Once a mainstay of the school day, physical education classes have fallen by the wayside for many American students, despite a massive push by doctors, nutritionists and even the first lady to get children more active.

The message has come fast and furious: Childhood obesity is a national epidemic. But physical education advocates say more and more students are being allowed to opt out of gym class in favor of activities like marching band, ROTC, even an extra art class.

Students in some school districts are even allowed to complete their physical education requirements online; they promise to exercise on their own time and just click their way through to course completion.

“This is a serious issue,” said Keith Ayoob, director of the nutrition clinic at the Rose F. Kennedy Center in the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. “If they don’t get anything in school they’re probably not going to get it.”

Being obese and overweight is the No. 1 health problem in children, Ayoob said. And a study this year in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that obese children were twice as likely to die of disease by age 55. According to the “Shape of the Nation” report, released in June by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, 22 states, or 43 percent, allow required physical education credits to be completed online. And only five states – Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Mexico and Vermont – require P.E. at every grade level.

“We’ve seen over time that children and students are becoming more sedentary and not just in school,” said NASPE President Lynn Couturier. “Even after school, if they’re going home a lot of them are choosing activities that are not physically active.” Schools, Couturier said, are making cuts to recess and intramural sports, leaving interscholastic sports, where only skilled athletes make the team. That cycle, she said, denies opportunities for exercise to those who need it most.

NASPE, along with the American Heart Association, recommend that students get 30 minutes per day of physical education instruction for elementary school children and 45 minutes per day for middle- and high-school children.

But only Alabama follows the guidelines at each school level, the NASPE reported.

“In my experience kids should be getting physical activity every single day and they don’t,” Ayoob said.

Waivers for soccer practice, marching band and art

Though the state of Florida does mandate the 150 minutes of physical education for elementary school children, it requires one credit of physical education as a graduation requirement for high school students. And while waivers to opt out of high school P.E. have been around in Florida since the late 1980s, a state law gave elementary school parents the option to opt in 2008 and middle school parents to do the same last year.

Several other states have variations on physical education opt-outs. Nichole Wilder, physical education coordinator for the Florida Department of Education, said that 40 percent to 80 percent of middle school students have opted out of physical education in some districts since the waiver became available to them in 2009.

Waivers for middle school students can be granted if the child is required to enroll in remedial academic classes. Parents can also request that their child be excused because they participate in physical activity outside of school that’s equal to their gym class – such as gymnastics or soccer – or if the child wants to take another course in place of physical education, whether it be art instruction or an extra math class.

Different waivers exist at the high school level, but playing on a team sport or participating in marching band can both go toward whittling away at the one-credit graduation requirement. Wilder admitted that it was essential that students stay physically active, but sometimes it’s difficult to find a place for it during school hours.

“It comes [down] to the number of class periods that are available during the school day,” she said. Couturier agreed, noting that there is increasing pressure for schools to perform well on standardized testing and comply with the No Child Left Behind Act, “which leaves less time for physical education and subjects that aren’t core.”

Still, NAPSE doesn’t condone any version of an opt-out or waiver program for physical education.

“We like to think it’s a valuable part of children’s curriculum,” she said. “If you sign up for math club you don’t get out of taking math. If you sign up for the school play, you don’t get out of English.” But, according to Ayoob, even kids enrolled in gym class aren’t getting out of it what they need.

“Gym is a term that’s often used loosely,” he said, pointing to 45-minute long physical education classes that take 20 minutes just to get the kids changed and organized. “Some of my kids get gym once a week, three times a week, maybe.”

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Original Source: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/students-opting-phys-ed-classes-obesity-epidemic/story?id=12393340&page=1

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Save the Children Breaks From Soda Tax Effort

Dec. 14, 2010, The New York Times

By William Neuman

Over the last year, Save the Children emerged as a leader in the push to tax sweetened soft drinks as a way to combat childhood obesity. The nonprofit group supported soda tax campaigns in Mississippi, New Mexico, Washington State, Philadelphia and the District of Columbia.

At the same time, executives at Save the Children were seeking a major grant from Coca-Cola to help finance the health and education programs that the charity conducts here and abroad, including its work on childhood obesity.

The talks with Coke are still going on. But the soda tax work has been stopped. In October, Save the Children surprised activists around the country with an e-mail message announcing that it would no longer support efforts to tax soft drinks. In interviews this month, Carolyn Miles, chief operating officer of Save the Children, said there was no connection between the group’s about-face on soda taxes and the discussions with Coke. A $5 million grant from PepsiCo also had no influence on the decision, she said. Both companies fiercely oppose soda taxes. Miles said that after Save the Children took a prominent role in several soda tax campaigns, executives reviewed the issue and decided it was too controversial to continue.

“We looked at it and said, ‘Is this something we should be out there doing and does this fit with the way that Save the Children works?’” she said. “And the answer was no.”

Miles said the talks with Coke were continuing and the grant under discussion was significantly larger than past donations from the soft drink giant. Coke has given the group about $400,000 since 1991, according to a company spokeswoman.

Save the Children has received much more money from Pepsi through the PepsiCo Foundation, which it has designated as a “corporate partner” in recognition of the $5 million grant for work in India and Bangladesh. PepsiCo awarded the grant in early 2009, before the charity began its soda tax advocacy.

Representatives of both Coca-Cola and Pepsi said they had not asked the charity to alter its position on soda taxes. But soda tax advocates say that soft drink makers are flexing their muscles in opposition to soda taxes. In the state of Washington, the American Beverage Association, a trade group that includes Coke and Pepsi, spent $16.5 million to win passage of a November ballot initiative that overturned a small tax on soft drinks enacted by the legislature to help plug a budget gap. The beverage association outspent supporters of the tax by more than 40 to 1, and the tax was repealed.

Jon Gould, deputy director of the Children’s Alliance, an advocacy group in Seattle, said Save the Children’s decision to abandon the issue was “a significant loss, especially at a time when the American Beverage Association has just shown that their resources are unlimited.” The alliance got $25,000 from Save the Children to help advocate for a soda tax.

Kelly D. Brownell, a soda tax advocate and director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, said that many food and beverage companies made donations to nonprofit groups fighting hunger but it was less common for them to finance work to address obesity.

“It would be a shame if there were a quid pro quo and the groups felt pressure to oppose something like a soda tax,” Brownell said.

Public debate about soda taxes has intensified over the last year. Proponents say that if the tax were large enough, perhaps a penny an ounce or more, it could reduce consumption of sugary beverages, which are high in calories and can contribute to obesity. In addition, money raised by the tax could be spent on public health efforts to fight obesity.

The soda companies argue that it is unfair to blame their products for the obesity epidemic, which has complex causes. They say that policies should be focused instead on getting people to exercise more.

So far, tax proposals have gotten little traction. Last year, federal lawmakers considered a soft drink tax to help pay for health care reform, but that idea was dropped. Governors, state lawmakers and mayors have proposed taxes but made little headway.

Save the Children’s involvement in the issue began in late 2009, when it got a $3.5 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to fight childhood obesity through a program it called the Campaign for Healthy Kids. Save the Children initially financed the work of local groups, some of which focused on improving school lunches and requiring health education in schools. But local activists in Mississippi, New Mexico and Washington State used the grants to push for a soda tax.

When politicians in Philadelphia and Washington proposed soda taxes this year, the Campaign for Healthy Kids got more directly involved, paying for lobbyists and polling. “We really took the lead on those and were publicly identified with those,” said Andrew Hysell, an associate vice president for Save the Children and the director of the obesity campaign. None of the soda tax measures supported by Save the Children passed, although in Washington, the city council removed a sales tax exemption for carbonated beverages.

Save the Children’s prominent role in Philadelphia and Washington led top executives of the charity to review the work. Miles said they concluded the advocacy was not part of the charity’s mission.

“We made a decision that it was an issue that was controversial among our constituents and really was not core to the work we’re doing in the U.S.,” Miles said. She said that while the charity’s constituents included corporate donors, concerns over fund-raising were not involved in the decision.

Hysell informed soda tax advocates of the change in October and the Campaign for Healthy Kids removed declarations of support for soda taxes from its website. Officials of the RWJF, who had encouraged Save the Children to advocate for soda taxes, are disappointed.

“They were obviously some of the strongest out there working on the issue, and we had such high hopes,” said Dwayne Proctor, team director for childhood obesity at the Foundation. He said the two groups would continue to work together on other aspects of the obesity fight.

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Original Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/15/business/15soda.html?_r=1

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ADDITIONAL CHILDHOOD OBESITY NEWS

Community Programs Fill Gaps in Childhood Obesity Policy

Dec. 31, 2010, The Brooklyn Ink/Columbia Graduate School of Journalism

By Faaria Kherani

Over the past year, Mayor Bloomberg has implemented a variety of policies to combat childhood obesity, but New York City doctors, health educators, and the Health Department’s own representatives are now saying the policies alone will not be enough to lower the childhood obesity rate.

“There’s no one answer,” says Health Department representative Cathy Nonas.

Nonas says the city’s policies, which include providing healthier foods in schools, stipulating 120 minutes of exercise per week in school, and providing food stamps for farmer’s markets, cannot inherently change children’s behavior outside of school. Children are strongly influenced by their home and community environments, which are difficult for the city to reach. Nonas, many pediatricians, and families dealing with childhood obesity say the mayor’s policies need to be supplemented by local initiatives.

And that seems to be happening, at least in an incipient way in Brooklyn and across New York City, where community organizations are filling policy gaps by stepping up to provide individualized health alternatives in low-income, immigrant communities.

According to the Health Department, 40 percent of kindergartners through eighth-graders – over 250,000 kids – in NYC are overweight or obese. Compared to the national child obesity rate of 30 percent, New York City is one of the leaders in the childhood obesity count.

Some new initiatives are easy to spot, like “Let’s Move” in Brooklyn led by Michelle Obama to target childhood obesity. But there are countless initiatives happening every week that have the local resources to target specific neighborhoods and families. These initiatives include Lutheran Family Health Center’s adult and child educational programs in Sunset Park, local distribution of information on healthy eating in different Brooklyn neighborhoods, and events held by a number of community gardens and food co-ops by neighborhood.

One community program was created by Health Plus, a not-for-profit health care plan. In 2008, it started a Teen Advisory Board program as a way to change behavior by getting children involved in their own health. These teens believe that it is more effective to listen to each other than to a wide-sweeping government policy. So far, the Teen Advisory Board has published pamphlets distributed throughout the community and invited guest speakers for educational meetings.

Health Educator Wendy Dominguez says the kids know how to reach other kids better than policies or teachers, because they know how a child’s mind works. This is one area where policy is currently less effective.

The Board’s participants come largely from the Sunset Park area, a neighborhood with a large Hispanic population. Studies have shown a distinct correlation among high rates of obesity, race, and income. Hispanics and African-Americans tend to be heavier than Caucasians and Asians.

Mayor Bloomberg has been doing his part by targeting low-income, immigrant neighborhoods through the school system. School vending machines no longer carry sodas and vegetable portions have been increased in lunches.

In November, Journey for Change, an organization that encourages children in the Greater New York area to become active in social change, asked kids to comment on its blog why they think one in three children are overweight or obese in New York City, and what they think of Mayor Bloomberg’s policies.

“Today in the school ‘salad’ they served raw broccoli and tomatoes,” wrote Rochelle. “I notice that many children throw it in the garbage because they did not think it was right to serve raw broccoli and call it salad.” Many kids also asked for a variety of fruit throughout the week instead of the same one day after day. Some policy changes are unattractive to kids, who then throw out their lunch and go to McDonald’s when school is out.

“I think it’s hard to fundamentally change what kids eat in school, because then they go outside and could completely negate that,” says Mary McCord, associate professor of pediatrics and public health at Columbia University. McCord works with children whose eating habits are too deeply ingrained to be completely overhauled in school. “A lot of kids I’ve worked with think that drinking soda is their birthright!”

Health Plus’ Teen Advisory Board encourages teens to talk about health and how to make healthy eating choices seem attractive to kids. Participants use bold fonts, bright colors, and easy to understand language to write articles on a variety of topics including healthy eating and exercise. The articles are personal and funny, written by teens themselves, which is a far cry from the standard, bullet-point Health Department pamphlets previously distributed.

“They thought the old pamphlets were boring,” says Dominguez. “They said, ‘No one’s going to read that!’”

Child participation in healthy living initiatives would also help solve problems like negative peer pressure, says one Chinese resident. When she first moved to the United States, her children hated fast food. But as time went by, her children wanted to fit in with their classmates, and now they eat McDonald’s regularly.

“It’s a social thing for them, to be able to go to McDonald’s with their friends and hang out,” she says. Dominguez says children need to take part in changing the way kids eat and exercise because ultimately children have the most persuasive power over one another.

“If they invest in it, they’ll tell their friends, ‘Hey, look what I’m doing!’” says Dominguez. McCord and Nonas say community initiatives have the power to make Bloomberg’s policies work faster.

While Health Plus addresses teen participation in health education, other initiatives are working to supplement lack of exercise time in schools. According to McCord, the most effective way to combat childhood obesity is to make sure children get the 120 minutes of exercise per week that is mandated by New York State. This is not yet happening in many schools.

Last October, New Jersey Nets basketball player Daryl Dawkins greeted approximately 400 students from four schools in the Sunset Park area to talk about fitness and dietary habits at the third annual Shoot for Better Health event. Students were able to learn from someone they looked up to as a role model.

“It is essential that we aggressively prevent childhood obesity now, before these kids grow up with a disadvantage,” said Principal Jack Spatola of P.S. 172 at the first Shoot for Better Health event in 2008. “Many of our students’ parents don’t understand and don’t trust the healthcare system.”

Many low-income families find health care and healthy food too expensive to rely on regularly. Kids often show up to school with quarter water – artificially flavored sugar water – and chips for an unhealthy breakfast that costs only two quarters. Rossman Fruit and Vegetable District on Third Avenue is one of the very few fresh food providers in Sunset Park. Many shoppers are surprised the store even exists in Sunset Park, and they are worried it won’t last long. Its location across from a liquor store and adult video shop only increases the skepticism.

“I’ve been noticing a steady increase of Park Slope types as of late,” said a regular shopper, “which more than likely means that Rossman’s days as a reasonably-priced, unpretentious produce market are numbered.” He is worried the prices will jump and he will be forced to search for cheaper fresh produce in other areas.

Nonas says the city is trying to increase access to affordable, healthy food by giving out “health bucks,” which are food stamps that can be used at farmer’s markets only. For every $5 of food stamps a family receives, they then get $2 of health bucks. Nonas says the Health Department has given out a quarter of a million dollars in health bucks this year. But the minute people run out of food stamps, it’s back to cheap meals at McDonald’s. Some families are also trading health bucks for normal food stamps so that they can buy more of their favorite foods. Children may be eating healthy in school, but they go home to an environment that endorses unhealthy behavior.

In an area like Sunset Park where the out-of-school environment promotes unhealthy behavior and Mayor Bloomberg’s policies are not necessarily changing children’s eating and living habits, community groups are necessary to supplement Bloomberg’s policies. “You really need both,” says Columbia University’s Dr. Dodi Meyer of policy and community initiatives. “I think it’s not either or, it’s all of them working together.”

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Original Source: http://thebrooklynink.com/2010/12/31/22355-community-programs-fill-childhood-obesity-policy-gaps/

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General Mills Reduces Sugar in Kids’ Cereals

Dec. 9, 2010, Yahoo News

By Martinne Geller

General Mills is lowering the amount of sugar in its children’s breakfast cereals to no more than 10 grams per serving from 11 grams a year ago, the latest move from a U.S. food maker to address childhood obesity.

The growing problem of obesity is leading to more children having adult health problems, such as diabetes or high cholesterol.

The step-down in sugar by General Mills, the maker of Lucky Charms, Cocoa Puffs and Trix cereals, is a move closer to its year-old goal to reduce to single-digit levels the number of grams of sugar per serving in all of its cereals advertised to children under 12.

General Mills, which also sells Progresso soup and Yoplait yogurt, said it must reduce sugar in tiny, incremental steps, lest consumers notice the difference and stop buying.

Consumers have a very keen idea of what these cereals ought to taste like and if you change the taste dramatically or suddenly, they’ll walk away from the brand,” said Jeff Harmening, president of General Mills’ Big G cereal division, in an interview.

“We will not make changes if it reduces the taste of the product,” he said.

As of Dec. 31, all shipments of the company’s 11 cereals advertised to children will have 10 grams or less, General Mills said. Too much sugar not only contributes to obesity, but also is a key culprit in diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, according to the American Heart Association, which recommends that women eat no more than 25 grams of added processed sugar a day, and men no more than 37.5 grams.

Packaged food and beverage companies face mounting pressure to make their products healthier as recently passed U.S. health reform legislation shifts the nation’s focus to ways to prevent disease, instead of simply treating it. Many companies have responded by cutting levels of sugar, sodium and fat in their products.

In 2007, General Mills committed to a ceiling of 12 grams of sugar per serving for cereals advertised to children younger than age 12, which also include Honey Nut Cheerios and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. It said that for products with more sugar than that, such as Count Chocula, it would no longer advertise them to that audience.

Harmening declined to say where in the single-digit range the cereals would eventually end up, though he said he would feel victorious once they all reach 9 grams or lower.

General Mills’ brands targeted to adults often have less sugar. For example, Fiber One, Cheerios and Corn Chex have 0, 1 and 3 grams of sugar per serving, respectively.

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Original Source: http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20101209/us_nm/us_generalmills

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