April 2022


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NCCOR’s 2021 Annual Report Looks at Strides Made in Promoting Healthy Environments for Kids

NCCOR recently published its 2021 annual report titled Creating Environments to Grow, Move, & Thrive. It highlights how NCCOR members advanced the field of childhood obesity research in 2021, with a special focus on how environments shape children’s nutrition and physical activity. NCCOR approached this research with the goal of eliminating health disparities and recognizing the continued impacts of the COVID-19 crisis.

This year’s annual report demonstrates how NCCOR connects and convenes experts and translates research findings into timely, tailored resources. Featured projects include:

  • Impact of COVID-19 on Child Care Programs, Potential Solutions, and Emerging Opportunities
    NCCOR worked with the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition to publish a report based on key informant interviews. This research explored how the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) and American Rescue Plan (ARP) investments may affect early childhood education centers.
  • Surveillance of Youth Active Travel to School
    NCCOR published a white paper and manuscript exploring key challenges related to the surveillance and measurement of youth active travel to school. These products identify gaps in existing surveillance systems, pinpoint needs for users of these systems, and develop practical strategies and solutions to strengthen surveillance where gaps exist.
  • Trail Use to Promote Physical Activity and Health Among Underserved Youth
    This research brief identifies programs with process or outcome evaluation data that promote trail use among youth. It outlines the strengths of these programs, including their reach and scalability, focus on under-resourced communities, and evaluations. It concludes with future considerations for improving programs and encouraging more youth trail use.
  • A Toolkit for Evaluating Childhood Healthy Weight Programs
    NCCOR developed this toolkit to help researchers, practitioners, and community programs gain confidence in conducting program evaluations. It reviews key concepts and provides detailed guidance on the core components of effective evaluations. It also features a resource library, with links to guides, databases, research articles, and other public health toolkits.

In addition to project profiles, this year’s report contains a list of publications and presentations, childhood obesity statistics, and a detailed list of NCCOR members, making it a helpful summary of current topics in the field and an excellent introduction to NCCOR for those who are new to childhood obesity research. Copies are available to download on the NCCOR website.

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Publications & Tools

NCCOR Toolbox: Project Pages to Promote the Research and Implementation of Healthy Environments

National Public Health Week will occur from April 4—10 with the theme “Public Health is Where You Are,” which highlights how communities ae working to become healthier, stronger, and safer. Many NCCOR projects focus on making environments healthier for all children. NCCOR’s Physical Activity Workgroup page offers links to our most recent research focused on improving physical activity through environmental changes and cross-sector collaboration. In addition, NCCOR’s previous work with the Health, Behavioral Design, and the Built Environment project offers a white paper, executive summary, and behavioral design resources designed to create environments that foster healthy eating and physical activity.

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New Paper Explores Dietary and Health Impacts of School Breakfast

A new paper published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics compares the impact of school breakfast versus breakfast prepared at home on dietary patterns and cardiometabolic health of elementary children. The study included 383 primarily Latino children from households with lower incomes. The students who ate school breakfast consumed less total fat, saturated fat, sodium, and refined grains, but consumed more sugar and lower protein than students who ate meals prepared at home. The students who ate school-based meals also had lower triglyceride levels. Click here to read the full paper online.

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CDC Promotes Inclusive Language with a New Library of Preferred Terms

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Gateway to Communication recently launched an online resource to increase progress in using non-stigmatizing language in public health communication. The Preferred Terms for Select Population Groups & Communities provides helpful examples of inclusive language for referring to attributes of a population such as demographics, health status, or socioeconomics. This library is an essential resource for grant writing, academic publishing, and respectful communication with the public.

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Childhood Obesity Research & News

Babies Exposed to Cannabis in the Womb May be at Risk for Obesity, High Blood Sugar

March 31, 2022, The Endocrine Society

Cannabis use among pregnant women is on the rise and may be associated with negative health outcomes in children, according to a new study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

A 2016 study in Colorado revealed that up to 22% of pregnant women had detectable levels of cannabinoids in their body. Women who use cannabis, both tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), during pregnancy could be putting their child at risk for low birth weight and behavioral problems. Exposure to cannabinoids may also increase the child’s future risk of obesity and high blood sugar.

Part of CBD’s popularity is that it is marketing as being “nonpsychoactive,” and that consumers can reap health benefits from the plant without the high. CBD is advertised as providing relief for anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. It is also marketed to promote sleep.

“We found that cannabis use during pregnancy was linked to increased fat mass percentage and fasting glucose levels in 5-year-old children,” said Brianna Moore, Ph.D., of the Colorado School of Public Health in Aurora, Colo. “We would encourage women to refrain from using any cannabis while pregnant or breastfeeding to minimize adverse health effects in the offspring.”

The researchers studied urine samples from 103 pregnant women, 15% of whom had detectable levels of cannabinoids (such as THC and CBD) in their urine. These mothers’ 5-year-old children had higher fat mass and fasting glucose levels compared to children who were not exposed to cannabis during pregnancy.

“More studies are needed to understand how exposure to different cannabinoids during pregnancy may impact the offspring,” Moore said.

Other authors of this study include: Katherine Sauder and Dana Dabelea of the Colorado School of Public Health and the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora, Colo.; Allison Shapiro of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora Colo.; and Tessa Crume and Gregory Kinney of the Colorado School of Public Health in Aurora Colo.

The study received funding from the National Institutes of Health.

The manuscript, “Fetal Exposure to Cannabis and Childhood Metabolic Outcomes: The Healthy Start Study,” was published online, ahead of print.


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Food Insecurity Linked to Cardiometabolic Risks in Hispanic/Latino Youths

March 17, 2022, Columbia Mailman School of Public Health

Hispanic/Latino youths with limited access to nutritionally adequate food—especially those whose parents were foreign-born—had worse cardiometabolic profiles than their “food secure” counterparts, according to a study published in Pediatrics. Until now, little was known about the role of food insecurity on youths’ physical health.

Given the increase in food insecurity that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for Hispanic/Latino immigrant families, these findings may also foreshadow concerning trends for the health and well-being of Hispanic/Latino youth, noted the researchers from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, University of Southern California, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Harvard University, San Diego State University, and Einstein College of Medicine.

Previous studies have shown that food insecurity in adults was associated with cardiometabolic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia. Food insecurity affects about 14 percent of households with youths, a disproportionate number of whom are Hispanic/Latino.

The researchers sought to determine whether food insecurity among Hispanic/Latino youth is associated with metabolic syndrome and other cardiometabolic markers, including waist circumference, fasting plasma glucose (FG), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), triglycerides (TGs), and systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

They analyzed data from 1,325 Hispanic/Latino youths ages 8-16 years participating in the Hispanic Community Children’s Health Study/Study of Latino Youth, which began with a baseline clinic visit between 2012 and 2014. Study participants were recruited from the Bronx, N.Y., Chicago, Miami, and San Diego.

Household and child food insecurity were assessed using the U.S. Department of Agriculture 18-item Household Food Security Survey Module.

Results showed youths in the lowest household and child food security categories had significantly worse HDL-C levels than those with high food security. Low/very low child food security was also associated with greater FG, TGs, and metabolic syndrome than high child food security.

Findings were strongest among youth with foreign-born parents/caregivers and whose families did not receive any food assistance in the previous year.

“Nutrition policies are needed to improve Hispanic/Latino families’ access to food assistance programs, and we call on health care providers to consider early screening for food insecurity to identify youths who may benefit from additional resources,” noted the authors.

“As food prices continue to rise as a consequence of the pandemic and other world events, it will be important to develop interventions to more effectively address food insecurity,” said senior author Sandra Albrecht, PhD, assistant professor of Epidemiology at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health. “Our findings suggest that this will be especially important for households that may not qualify for federal aid.”

Co-authors are Luis E. Maldonado, University of Southern California; Daniela Sotres-Alvarez, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Josiemer Mattei, Harvard University; Krista M. Perreira, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Amanda C. McClain, San Diego State University; Linda C. Gallo, San Diego State University; and Carmen R. Isasi, Einstein College of Medicine.

The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grants HL102130, HL129969, DK107791, HD050924).


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Childhood Trauma and Genetics Linked to Increased Obesity Risk

March 9, 2022, Desert Research Institute

New research from the Healthy Nevada Project found associations between genetics, obesity, and childhood trauma, linking social health determinants, genetics, and disease. The study, which was published this week in Frontiers in Genetics, found that participants with specific genetic traits and who experience childhood traumas are more likely to suffer from adult obesity.

In 2016, DRI and Renown Health launched the Healthy Nevada Project®, the nation’s first community-based, population health study, which now has more than 60,000 participants. The project is a collaboration with personal genomics company, Helix, and combines genetic, environmental, social, and clinical data to address individual and community health needs with the goal of improving health across the state and the nation.

The new study focuses on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), which are traumatic and unsafe events that children endure by the age of 18. Over 16,000 participants in the Healthy Nevada Project® answered a mental health survey, and more than 65 percent of these individuals self-reported at least one ACE occurrence. These 16,000 participants were cross-referenced with their genetic makeup, and clinical Body Mass Index (BMI) measures.

According to the research team’s findings, study participants who had experienced one or more types of ACE were 1.5 times more likely to [have obesity] as adults. Participants who experienced four or more ACEs were more than twice as likely to become severely obese.

“Our analysis showed a steady increase in BMI for each ACE a person experienced, which indicates a very strong and significant association between the number of adverse childhood experiences and adult obesity,” said lead author Karen Schlauch, Ph.D., of DRI. “More importantly, participants’ BMI reacted even more strongly to the occurrence of ACEs when paired with certain mutations in several genes, one of which is strongly associated with schizophrenia.”

Many thanks to Renown Health, the Stacie Mathewson Behavioral Health and Addiction Institute, and the Center for Genomic Medicine at DRI for supporting this significant work. Renown is currently enrolling participants in the world’s largest community-based genetic population health study, the Healthy Nevada Project®. For more information, visit

Note: Article edited for length and to include person-first language.


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