February 2011





National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research Launches Surveillance Resource

February 2011, NCCOR

The National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) announced on Feb. 4 the launch of a new, free online resource to help researchers and practitioners more easily investigate childhood obesity in America.

NCCOR’s Catalogue of Surveillance Systems describes in detail existing surveillance systems that collect data related to childhood obesity. It provides one-stop access to more than 75 surveys and other data sets, allowing users to search and select surveys that provide a wealth of data at the national, state, and local levels on a range of variables, including school policies and health outcomes, as well as eating and exercise behaviors. Health officials at the city and state level also can find data related to their programs.

Using the Catalogue, researchers can:

  • identify surveillance systems to meet their research and program needs
  • compare attributes across systems
  • find information about the systems
  • link directly to the systems to download data or other information.

“NCCOR’s Catalogue of Surveillance Systems is a valuable tool for any researcher focused on childhood obesity,” said NIH Director, Dr. Francis Collins. “Searching for information on data in these systems now takes a matter of minutes rather than hours, or even days. It is also now possible to see which data systems can be linked in order to study these health behaviors at the individual and environmental levels.”

The Catalogue of Surveillance Systems is available here. To register for upcoming webinars on the features and uses of the Catalogue, please send an e-mail to css@aed.org.

NCCOR is a collaboration among the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to accelerate progress on reversing the epidemic of childhood obesity in the United States. Through the collective efforts of these organizations, NCCOR aims to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of research on childhood obesity.

The Catalogue of Surveillance Systems is one product to help U.S. researchers and practitioners studying childhood obesity. NCCOR plans to launch a second online tool soon, which will allow researchers to search for available survey instruments and questionnaires they can use in their own studies.


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Publications & Tools

Report: SSB Consumption on Black Americans’ Health

The African American Collaborative Obesity Research Network, which receives funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, released a new research brief, Impact of Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption on Black Americans’ Health, that examines the impact of sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption on African-Americans’ health. The brief also identifies research needs and priorities that could help inform policies to reduce SSB consumption among African-Americans.


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Introducing PreventObesity.net

PreventObesity.net is a new tool sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to help build the movement to reverse childhood obesity and connect leaders in the movement with one another.

  • A map of the movement shows people working on healthy eating, active living and other obesity-related issues. People and organizations can add themselves to the map to show their presence in the movement. Those who join the Leadership Network can download contact info for others.
  • The map of the movement is available as a widget to embed on your own site. Highlight your organization’s role in this nationwide movement, and give your site visitors an opportunity to add themselves to the network.
  • Their blog analysis helps organizers target the right blogs when they have stories or reports to share.
  • They also offer cell phone tools to get people engaged in advocacy efforts through text messaging.


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Study Shows Obesity Costs U.S. $270 Billion

A new study by the Society of Actuaries estimates that the economic cost in the United States of overweight and obesity combined is $270 billion: $198 billion due to obesity and $72 billion due to overweight. Researchers showed that the costs are due to medical expenses, excess mortality, and disability. The costs break down to $127 billion, $49 billion, and $115, respectively. Read the full report to learn more.

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Childhood Obesity Research & News

Wal-Mart Shifts Strategy to Promote Healthy Foods

Jan. 20, 2011, The New York Times

Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer, will announced a five-year plan last month to make thousands of its packaged foods lower in unhealthy salts, fats and sugars, and to drop prices on fruits and vegetables.

The initiative came out of discussions the company has been having with Michelle Obama, the first lady, who will attend the announcement in Washington and has made healthy eating and reducing childhood obesity the centerpiece of her agenda. Aides say it is the first time Mrs. Obama has thrown her support behind the work of a single company.

The plan, similar to efforts by other companies and to public health initiatives by New York City, sets specific targets for lowering sodium, trans fats and added sugars in a broad array of foods — including rice, soups, canned beans, salad dressings and snacks like potato chips — packaged under the company’s house brand, Great Value.

In interviews previewing the announcement, Wal-Mart and White House officials said the company was also pledging to press its major food suppliers, like Kraft, to follow its example. Wal-Mart does not disclose how much of its sales come from its house brand.

But Kraft says about 16 percent of its global sales are through Wal-Mart.

In addition, Wal-Mart will work to eliminate any extra cost to customers for healthy foods made with whole grains, said Leslie Dach, Wal-Mart’s executive vice president for corporate affairs. By lowering prices on fresh fruits and vegetables, Wal-Mart says it will cut into its own profits but hopes to make up for it in sales volume. “This is not about asking the farmers to accept less for their crops,” he said.

The changes will be introduced slowly, over a period of five years, to give the company time to overcome technical hurdles and to give consumers time to adjust to foods’ new taste, Dach said. “It doesn’t do you any good to have healthy food if people don’t eat it.”

Wal-Mart is hardly the first company to take such steps; ConAgra Foods, for example, has promised to reduce sodium content in its foods by 20 percent by 2015.

But because Wal-Mart sells more groceries than any other company in the country, and because it is such a large purchaser of foods produced by national suppliers, nutrition experts say the changes could have a big impact on the affordability of healthy food and the health of American families and children.

Some say the company has almost as much power as federal regulators to shape the marketplace.

“A number of companies have said they are going to make voluntary reductions in sodium over the next several years, and numerous companies have said they are going to try to get trans fat out of their food,” said Michael Jacobson, executive director of Center for Science in the Public Interest. “But Wal-Mart is in a position almost like the Food and Drug Administration. I think it really pushes the food industry in the right direction.”

But Wal-Mart is pushing only so far. The company’s proposed sugar reductions are “much less aggressive” than they could be, Jacobson said, noting that Wal-Mart is not proposing to tackle the problem of added sugars in soft drinks, which experts regard as a major contributor to childhood obesity. And he said it would be “nice if Wal-Mart’s timeline were speedier” than five years.

Wal-Mart has been planning the initiative for more than a year; the effort was in its early stages when Mrs. Obama joined it. The first lady’s appearance with Dach and other Wal-Mart executives when they made the announcement at a community center in Washington’s Anacostia neighborhood was out of the ordinary and a prominent effort by the administration to spur further moves toward healthier food.

“We’re not just aligning ourselves with one company; we’re aligning ourselves with people who are stepping up as leaders to take this country to a healthier place,” said Sam Kass, the White House chef who doubles as Mrs. Obama’s top adviser on matters of nutrition.

“There’s no qualm about that,” Kass said. “The only question that we have is do we think this is a significant step in that direction, and do we think there is a method in place to track progress, and do we think this will have the impact we are pushing for.”

Over the last year, Kass and other aides to the first lady have spent countless hours in meetings with company officials; both Kass and Dach said Mrs. Obama pushed the company to hold itself accountable by issuing public progress reports. The Partnership for a Healthier America, a nonprofit organization that works with the first lady on her Let’s Move initiative to reduce childhood obesity, will monitor the company’s progress.

The changes will not happen overnight. Wal-Mart is pledging to reduce sodium by 25 percent, eliminate industrially added trans fats and reduce added sugars by 10 percent by 2015. Its other plans are less specific. In addition to proposing to lower prices on healthy foods, Wal-Mart is planning to develop criteria, and ultimately a seal, that will go on truly healthier foods, as measured by their sodium, fat and sugar content.

The company says it will also address the problem of “food deserts” — a dearth of grocery stores selling fresh produce in rural and underserved urban areas like Anacostia — by building more stores. And it will increase charitable contributions for nutrition programs.

A range of studies has shown that low-income people, especially those who receive food stamps, face special dietary challenges because eating healthy costs more and healthier food is harder to get in their neighborhoods. James D. Weill, president of Food Research and Action Center, an organization that has discussed the problem with Wal-Mart, said the company recognized “how much hunger and food insecurity there is in the country.”

Dach said the lower prices and food reformulations were motivated by the demands of Wal-Mart’s own customers. He said the company believed that, if it was successful, the price reductions would save Americans who shop at Wal-Mart approximately $1 billion a year on fresh fruits and vegetables alone.

“Our customers have always told us, ‘We don’t understand why whole wheat macaroni and cheese costs more than regular macaroni and cheese,’ ” Dach said, adding, “We’ve always said that we don’t think the Wal-Mart shopper should have to choose between a product that is healthier for them and what they can afford.”

Jacobson, of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said that reducing sodium was the trickiest of the food reformulation challenges. Sodium is in every food category, and it is more difficult to replace than the partly hydrogenated oil that composes trans fats, or than sugars, because there are easy substitutes for oils and sugars. But sodium, which contributes to hypertension and raises the risk of heart disease, must simply be reduced, which can greatly alter taste.

Dach said the company had yet to conquer its reformulation challenges, and described the goals as both aspirational and realistic. “We think it’s a realistic target, but it’s aspirational in the sense that we can’t tell you today how it’s all going to get done,” he said.


Original Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/20/business/20walmart.html?_r=1&emc=eta1

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USDA Calls for Dramatic Change in School Lunches

Jan. 12, 2011, USA Today

The government is calling for dramatic changes in school meals, including limiting french fries, sodium and calories and offering students more fruits and vegetables.

The proposed rule, being released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will raise the nutrition standards for meals for the first time in 15 years.

This is the “first major improvement” in the standards that “we’ve seen in a generation, and it reflects the seriousness of the issue of obesity,” says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

About a third of children and adolescents — 25 million kids – are obese or overweight. Extra pounds put children at a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other health problems. An analysis in 2005 found that children today may lead shorter lives by two to five years than their parents because of obesity.

Vilsack says addressing the childhood obesity problem is critical for kids’ health, future medical costs and national security, as so many young adults are too heavy to serve in the military.

The new meal standards are designed to improve the health of nearly 32 million children who eat lunch at school every day and almost 11 million who eat breakfast. Overall, kids consume about 30 percent to 50 percent of their calories while at school.

Among the requirements for school meals outlined in the proposed rule:

  • Decrease the amount of starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, corn and green peas, to one cup a week.
  • Reduce sodium in meals over the next 10 years. A high school lunch now has about 1,600 milligrams of sodium. Through incremental changes, that amount should be lowered over the next decade to 740 milligrams or less of sodium for grades through 9 through 12; 710 milligrams or less for grades 6 through 8; 640 milligrams or less for kindergarten through fifth grades.
  • Establish calorie maximums and minimums for the first time. For lunch: 550 to 650 calories for kindergarten through fifth grade; 600 to 700 for grades 6 through 8; 750 to 850 for grades 9 through 12.
  • Serve only unflavored 1 percent milk or fat-free flavored or unflavored milk. Currently, schools can serve milk of any fat content.
  • Increase the fruits and vegetables kids are offered. The new rule requires that a serving of fruit be offered daily at breakfast and lunch and that two servings of vegetables be offered daily at lunch.
  • Over the course of a week, there must be a serving of each of the following: green leafy vegetables, orange vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, summer squash), beans, starchy and other vegetables. This is to make sure that children are exposed to a variety of vegetables.
  • Increase whole grains substantially. Currently, there is no requirement regarding whole grains, but the proposed rules require that half of grains served must be whole grains.
  • Minimize trans fat by using products where the nutrition label says zero grams of trans fat per serving.

Vilsack says the government is not trying to “dictate” what people eat but is trying to help parents make sure their youngsters “are as healthy, happy, productive and as successful as God intended them to be.”

Implementing the new meal standards is part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 signed into law by President Obama on Dec. 13.

The proposed rule applies to school breakfast and lunch but not to what’s sold in vending machines and school stores. Those will be addressed later in a separate rule.

Cleaning up the “school nutrition environment” would make a big difference to kids’ diets — and teach them good eating habits that could affect them the rest of their lives, says Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest and an advocate of healthier school meals. “Kids learn by doing, and so serving a healthy meal is such an important part of their education.”

Wootan says the challenge now is for school food-service personnel to make these changes, which will cost more. “They need technical assistance, support, model recipes, model product specifications. They need to know how to make a healthier chicken nugget or healthier pizza.

“There are schools already serving healthy foods that kids really like. The problem is that not enough schools know how to do it.”

Currently, schools receive $2.72 from the federal government for every child who is on the free lunch program. Schools that meet the new standards will get another 6 cents per meal.

Nancy Rice, president of the School Nutrition Association, a non-profit professional organization representing school food-service professionals, says that schools are going to have to “stretch limited food-service dollars. We are going to have to do the best we can and to try to cut in other areas. Everything we are doing is to benefit kids.”

Cutting back on fries could be a shock to some students, she says. Some school systems still sell fries every day in a la carte lines, she says. “But the vast majority of the school systems are already limiting french fries, and when they are serving them, they are baking them.”

The agriculture department is asking for input on the proposed rule during a public comment period that ends April 13.

When the regulation is final, schools will be required to meet the new standards to get government reimbursement on school meals. The rule does not need congressional approval.


Original Source: http://www.usatoday.com/yourlife/food/diet-nutrition/2011-01-12-schoollunch13_ST_N.htm

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USDA Announces Grant to Develop Obesity Prevention

Jan. 17, 2011, GardenNews.biz

Roger Beachy, director of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded funding to Oregon State University researchers to develop an obesity prevention program for children in rural Oregon.

Childhood obesity is a problem many families face across the nation; however, children in rural areas face obstacles such as access to fresh healthy foods and physical activity and recreational programs that help in fighting obesity,” Beachy said. “I am pleased to announce this award today which is taking steps to help rural children and families in Oregon lead healthy lives.”

NIFA awarded OSU researchers Deborah John and Kathy Gunter $4,878,865 to start “Generating Rural Options for Weight-Healthy Kids and Communities” (GROW HKC), which will work with Cooperative Extension in six Western states to engage rural people in community-based research to assess features in rural communities that either prevent or promote obesity and community resources and readiness that could help with prevention efforts. The team will take these assessments and implement an obesity intervention program in three counties in Oregon to promote healthy eating and increase physical activity with the end goal to improve body mass index among rural children aged 5-8 years old.

Rural communities pose unique challenges for residents that differ from those faced by individuals residing in urban areas. Many lack access to fresh, nutritious food and it is difficult to walk or bike to destinations and participate in physical activity and recreational sport programs. Furthermore, features of rural schools, particularly those in under-resourced communities, are such that students often face long bus commutes, minimal or no provision of health and physical education by certified teachers and few resources to support health and/or enrich the academic environment.

The grant is awarded through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). AFRI’s childhood obesity prevention supports single-function research, education and extension projects; multi-function integrated research, education and extension projects; and Food and Agricultural Science Enhancement (FASE) grants.

FASE grants are designed to help institutions develop competitive research, education, extension, and integrated projects and attract new scientists and educators into careers in high-priority areas of need in agriculture, food, and environmental sciences. The long-term outcome for this program is to reduce the prevalence of overweight and obesity among children and adolescents ages 2 to 19 years.

AFRI is NIFA’s flagship competitive grant program and was established under the 2008 Farm Bill. AFRI supports work in six priority areas: 1) plant health and production and plant products; 2) animal health and production and animal products; 3) food safety, nutrition and health; 4) renewable energy, natural resources and environment; 5) agriculture systems and technology; and 6) agriculture economics and rural communities.


Original Source: http://gardennews.biz/?id=3456&pg=1&keys=

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Schools to Get Required Minimum Physical Education Standards Under New Bill

Jan. 25, 2011, San Bernardino County Democrat Examiner

Every student attending a public school would have to spend some time in physical education classes if a bill that was introduced in the House of Representatives last month were signed into law.

The Physical Education to Create a Healthier Nation Act would require all public schools to provide minimum requirements of physical education time for every student regardless of grade level. The bill would require elementary schools to have at least 150 minutes of physical education each week, and that amount increases to a minimum of 225 minutes for students in middle and high schools – amounts the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, a non-profit association dedicated to quality in physical education and sport, recommends. The legislation also would ensure students with disabilities have a physical education plan that would correspond to their Individualized Education Plan.

San Bernardino County Democratic Rep. Joe Baca introduced the legislation as another way to help combat childhood obesity – also to help fight obesity, since the 112th Congress began in January he has introduced the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Grower Tax Incentive Act, which would increase tax incentives for fruit and vegetable growers that he has said would give more access to healthy foods.

“The rate of childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years – and obesity related health care now costs our nation over $147 billion annually,” Baca said in a news release about the legislation. “We must implement preventative policies that will create a fit future for our children, and stop the public health epidemic that obesity has become. Greater emphasis on physical activity, nutrition education, access to healthy foods and changes to our sedentary culture are all critical to solving this crisis. I am proud to introduce this bill to begin addressing part of the solution to the obesity epidemic.”

According to a School Health Policies and Programs Study the Department of Health and Human Services released in 2006 – the latest report given of the national survey periodically conducted to assess school health policies and programs at state, district, school and classroom levels – about 69 percent of elementary schools, 84 percent of middle schools and 95 percent of high schools require physical education. Of those, about 4 percent of elementary schools, 8 percent of middle schools and 2 percent of high schools provided daily physical education or its equivalent at the levels the Physical Education to Create a Healthier Nation Act would require for the entire school year for students in all grades.

The percentage of states that required or encouraged schools to follow the standards the NASPE recommends and that this bill would require increased from 59 percent in 2000 to 76 percent in 2006. In fact, California exceeds the NASPE recommendations by requiring 200 minutes of physical education every 10 schools days for students in grades one through six and 400 minutes of physical education every 10 school days for students in grades seven through 12. Baca said his bill would not only help lower childhood obesity problems but also help reduce the nation’s healthcare costs.

“It is terrifying that right now, we are raising the first ever generation of Americans to have shorter life expectancies than their parents,” Baca said. “And with obesity related costs expected to hit $1 trillion annually by the year 2030 – we need to realize that if left unchecked, this health crisis can literally bankrupt our nation. This legislation is an important first step in recognizing the seriousness of childhood obesity, and working towards preventative solutions that makes America a happier, healthier nation.”


Original Source: http://www.examiner.com/democrat-in-los-angeles/schools-to-get-required-minimum-physical-education-standards-under-new-bill

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