September 2009





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 fundone 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 & Tools

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.


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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.

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

Aug. 11, 2009, The Detroit News

By Kimberly Hayes Taylor

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

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

Aug., 5, 2009,

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 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 “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 “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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