NCCOR Connect & Explore: Evaluating Health Care-Community Collaborations: Community-Based Programs

The health care sector is working toward engaging communities to directly address population health, including childhood obesity prevention. The Affordable Care Act of 2010 stipulates that non-profit hospitals and health systems must engage in activities to improve the health of the communities they serve. Exploring the integration of clinic-community programs is vital for moving childhood obesity prevention efforts forward.

This month, NCCOR is hosting a Connect & Explore webinar on “Evaluating Health Care-Community Collaborations: Community-Based Programs.” The webinar will feature two case studies highlighting strategies used by clinics to engage communities in addressing childhood obesity. Presenters will discuss efforts to assess the reach, effectiveness, adoption, impact, and maintenance of programs at the community level.

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New report provides important data on health-related practices in secondary schools

Bridging the Gap has released a comprehensive report examining U.S. secondary school policies and practices related to nutrition, physical activity, and obesity prevention.

The report, entitled School Policies and Practices to Improve Health and Prevent Obesity: National Secondary School Results, Volume 6, focuses on students in grades 8, 10, and 12 and includes data from nationally representative samples of public middle and high schools. It provides new information from the 2013-14 school year on school meals, competitive foods and beverages, drinking water in schools, physical activity (including physical education, sports participation, and walking and biking to school), progress made in fulfilling the federal wellness policy mandate, and much more. It also includes annual trends from the 2006-07 school year forward.

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Physical Activity Design Guidelines for School Architecture: New tool for built environment researchers and designers

According to a 2012 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, up to 50 percent of a child’s waking hours are spent in school. Furthermore, much of this time is spent sedentary. In efforts to decrease childhood obesity, research has increasingly focused on physical activity in the school environment. As this body of evidence continues to grow, however, a knowledge gap has formed between research and school design practice.

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Influence of school architecture and design on healthy eating: Key findings from systematic review

With up to 50 percent of students’ daily energy intake occurring in the school building, schools are often the focus of targeted efforts to combat childhood obesity. Recent evidence has shown that although school-based nutrition education programs may contribute to healthier eating habits, these programs are not consistently effective on their own.

In response, an exciting area of research is emerging with a focus on the physical design of school building features, such as cafeterias, teaching gardens, or access to drinking water, and the impact it can have on healthy eating behaviors and attitudes. As this body of research expands, however, little work has been done to quantify, categorize, and analyze it.

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School vending machines ditch Oreos, Fritos for ‘smart snacks’

July 1, 2014, Chicago Tribune

By Jessica Wohl

The school vending machine is no longer an easy place to satisfy a snack craving.

Under new national nutritional guidelines that kick in July 1, schools that are part of the National School Lunch Program can no longer sell treats such as Oreos and Fritos. The “Smart Snacks in School” program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) covers foods and drinks sold in vending machines, on cafeteria à la carte menus and for club fundraisers during school hours.

For years, school systems have been pushing for healthier foods on their breakfast and lunch menus. Now, schools must also make sure products in their vending machines meet new standards.

Companies that fill school vending machines have been busy preparing to ensure they have the right products. The USDA standards include limits on calories, sodium, and sugar. Grain items must have 50 percent or more whole grains by weight, or list whole grains as their first ingredient. Continue reading

Americans don’t want soda tax, size restrictions

March 20, 2014, Medical Xpress

By Stacey Shackford

Those hoping to dilute Americans’ taste for soda, energy drinks, sweetened tea, and other sugary beverages should take their quest to school lunchrooms rather than legislative chambers, according to a recent study by media and health policy experts.

Soda taxes and beverage portion size restrictions were unpalatable to the 1,319 U.S. adults questioned in a fall 2012 survey as part of a study reported online March 10 in the journal Preventive Medicine.

Adding front-of-package nutrition labels and removing sugary beverages from school environments garnered greater support: 65 percent and 62 percent, respectively —compared with 22 percent for taxes and 26 percent for portion size restrictions. Continue reading

IOM to host webinar about increasing physical activity and physical education in schools

Almost one year ago, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released the report Educating the Student Body: Taking Physical Activity and Physical Education to School, which offered recommendations, strategies, and action steps that have potential to increase children’s opportunities to engage in physical activity at school, including before, during, and after school. However, many barriers exist to achieving the recommended amount of physical activity in the school environment.

In recognition of the one year anniversary of the release of the report, IOM will host a webinar on May 13 (3-4 p.m.) titled, “Making it Happen: Overcoming Barriers to Increasing Physical Activity and Physical Education in Schools.” The webinar will review the recommendations of the report and ways that schools across the country are working to implement physical activity programs. The webinar will consider barriers to implementation faced by schools and highlight ways in which district and school-level administrators are working to overcome these obstacles. Continue reading

Schools should not let liability concerns keep them from promoting physical activity

Kids spend many of their waking hours at school. This puts schools in a unique position to help promote physical activity and healthy habits among children. However, many schools are deterred by fears of increased risk of legal liability for personal injuries.

A new article in the American Journal of Public Health outlines three school-based strategies for promoting physical activity—Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs, joint use agreements, and playground enhancement— and describes how schools can substantially minimize their liability risk by engaging in an number of different approaches that include creating and maintaining safe facilities, having adequate insurance, and partnering with other organizations to share liability risk. In some cases schools are also protected under governmental immunity, further lowering their liability risk. Continue reading

Study shows elementary and middle schools can get students moving, not just thinking

Aug. 8, 2013, Medical Xpress

Despite widespread cuts to physical education classes and recess, an Indiana University study has shown that schools can play an important role in helping their students live healthier lives. Schools that implemented coordinated school health programs saw increases in students’ physical activity.

“With support from teachers, administrators, and parents, our schools can become healthier places,” said Mindy Hightower King, evaluation manager at the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community (IIDC) at IU Bloomington. “Despite budget cuts and increasing emphasis on academic skills, schools are choosing to focus on improving student health, which ultimately can support improved academic performance.”

The findings involved 1,100 students from eight southern Indiana elementary and middle schools. Students who attended the schools that most thoroughly implemented HEROES, a program based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s coordinated school health model, were more likely to increase their physical activity levels. HEROES is designed to enhance schoolwide wellness through changes in physical education, nutrition, health promotion efforts for school staff and family, and community involvement. Continue reading

Obesity higher for kids whose schools are near fast food chains

May 30, 2013, RedOrbit

By Michael Harper

Obesity is an epidemic that affects millions around the world. What’s worse, children are often particularly vulnerable to the dangers that come with being significantly overweight. In the United States, studies show that race and socioeconomic status is a major factor in childhood obesity, with African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native-Americans being the most likely to be obese.

A new study from Baylor University has found that these groups are especially at risk when fast food restaurants are located near their schools. Minority students were also found to be less active than students who attended a school without fast food options so readily available. Continue reading