Blog Posts for: Kathryn Henderson, PhD
09/10/2009 | Kathryn Henderson, PhD
Applause for the American Heart Association
I just read through the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Scientific Statement on dietary sugars intake and cardiovascular health – kudos to the AHA!
03/01/2009 | Kathryn Henderson, PhD
It’s About Respect…
I have a two-year-old daughter, and am often out with her while running errands or just meandering in town. She is very friendly and likes to smile and wave at passersby, and at store clerks and coffee shop waiters. The latter not infrequently produces an offer of a cookie or other treat for my daughter. Often, the well-intentioned waiter will say directly to my daughter “Would you like a cookie?” Sometimes, the waiter will be kind enough to ask me first (“Is it okay if she has a cookie?”), but at the same time is holding said cookie in my daughter’s face. As you might imagine, it is extremely difficult at that point to refuse the treat, both in terms of the tears (my daughter’s) that will ensue and the offense to the waiter caused by my refusal, who doesn’t seem satisfied by “I try to limit her sweets” or “I don’t really want her to have a treat at this point in the morning.”
11/18/2008 | Kathryn Henderson, PhD
Personal Investment in Schools
A story in the Sunday edition of The New York Times caught my eye. Apparently, the Washington elite are all agog at the prospect of the Obama girls attending one of their exclusive private schools, as Michelle Obama toured at least two schools last week. (The public school system is not being considered.) The article goes on to list a number of political players and the (private) schools to which they send their children and grandchildren. I began thinking about this in the context of motivation to improve the public school nutrition environment, among other aspects of the public school system. Education gets pretty short shrift in this country. I am left wondering if those with the power to do something about the school system had a personal connection to its impact, might the outcome be different?
09/29/2008 | Kathryn Henderson, PhD
Food Banks: An Opportunity for Healthy Change
Many of us fashion ourselves charitable individuals, donating money, goods, or services to a variety of organizations and groups in need. I make trips to the Goodwill, write checks to the wildlife federation and, yes, donate to the food bank. But a July news story recently caught my eye and has me thinking seriously about the latter. My largest food bank donations typically occur during food drives when a group comes to my home to pick up the goods, or when I deliver bags from my kitchen to a drop-off point. I fill bags with non-perishables and can feel good about my efforts…..or perhaps not. In thinking about it, I realize that I fill those bags in part with foods that my family doesn’t like, or that I bought by mistake, not noticing at the time that they are not healthy for us (e.g., contain trans fats, are high in saturated fats or sodium or sugar). The items I won’t feed to my own child, I am by extension feeding to someone else’s. This certainly isn’t a conscious decision, but the effect is promoting poor nutrition to economically disadvantaged individuals.
05/01/2008 | Kathryn Henderson, PhD
The May issue of Parenting magazine recently arrived on my doorstep. I was initially excited by the article “Two-way dinners: Make it for kids, then tweak it for adults – and everybody’s happy!” This seemed like a great idea – after all, I spend a lot of time encouraging parents to put one meal on the table each night rather than making a different meal for each family member. The latter is time-consuming, reinforces the “eat what I want any time I want” mentality, and caters to pickiness. So I eagerly flipped to the article and was suitably…disappointed.
11/07/2007 | Kathryn Henderson, PhD
Food Marketing to Infants
At the Rudd Center we have been working hard to improve the food environment in schools, and have recently launched a study to address nutrition and feeding behaviors in the preschool setting. In the spirit of our current trajectory, I am looking ahead to tackling infant feeding and infant formula is at the top of my list. During my pregnancy, I received (unsolicited) numerous cans of infant formula, and numerous coupons for formula. I came from the hospital with my daughter and two complimentary cans of formula. Since my daughter’s birth, I have continued to receive coupons for formula and free samples. This is all in spite of the fact that I have never purchased any formula or indicated any interest in purchasing it. I am sure it will not surprise anyone to hear that I have not received ongoing support for breastfeeding, despite overwhelming evidence that breast milk is superior to formula – even the formula companies acknowledge this.
10/27/2007 | Kathryn Henderson, PhD
Weight bias….for infants?
How early do we begin to indoctrinate individuals with weight bias? I recently observed an interesting phenomenon in my daycare center.
08/27/2007 | Kathryn Henderson, PhD
Is Harm Reduction Missing the Mark?
It seems to me that we are developing an approach to improving nutrition that feels very familiar. We’ve seen it applied to smoking, drinking, illicit drug use, and sexual behavior. And, in these other arenas, the approach has inflamed hot debate.
07/31/2007 | Kathryn Henderson, PhD
Virtual Pets, Virtual Movement
I was introduced this weekend via The New York Times Sunday Styles section to Webkinz – a website in which children adopt virtual pets and take virtual care of them. The story was hilarious: it described parents who, when their kids are at camp, are put in charge of looking after the pets.
07/17/2007 | Kathryn Henderson, PhD
In last weekend’s New York Times Magazine there appeared an article on global warming. The gist of the article was that, at this point, global warming is inevitable, there is little we can do on any level to change the trend, so we might as well not let such worries get in the way of our enjoyment of today – my apologies to the author for over-simplification of his thesis but global warning is not my particular interest here. My interest is (surprise!) its potential application to the obesity epidemic.
07/09/2007 | Kathryn Henderson, PhD
Baby blog 2
For years I have been treating in young children an atypical eating disorder that doesn’t really have an official name, but is best described as a very extreme version of picky eating. These children limit their intake to, say, 3 or 4 foods, all of which tend to be white/beige. The limiting is distinguished from the phenomenon of eating only one food for days or weeks by its longevity: these are kids who limit their foods for years. Treating the children is difficult, in part because they are often not motivated to change, but also because their parents – and in particular, their mothers – have difficulty implementing the intervention. I have seen mothers who pay their children to eat, buy them special toys or give special privileges for eating, will repeatedly make or re-make new meals if the child won’t eat what’s on offer, and generally reinforce the picky-ness by. These mothers cannot stand to see their children not eat. I am now, more than ever, convinced that this is biological.
06/29/2007 | Kathryn Henderson, PhD
After a hiatus from blogging, I’m back on the boards, but with a four-month-old baby in tow, so I thought I’d share some observations from early parenthood and my time away from the office.
02/09/2007 | Kathryn Henderson, PhD
Isn't Health Enough?
There is a lot of talk these days about providing more nutritious foods and beverages and less junk to students at school; I’m proud to say that Connecticut has made great strides on this front. One interesting debate that emerges in this context is whether improved nutrition and/or decreased overweight/obesity in children will lead to better academic outcomes. Similarly, we also ask whether improving nutrition will save us all money in the end.
01/30/2007 | Kathryn Henderson, PhD
Picky Eaters: Where Did They All Come From?
I have many friends and acquaintances with young children and I treat clinically children and parents of young children. Because I’m interested in food and weight, I attend to the eating patterns of kids, and I’ve noticed that there seem to be a lot of “picky eaters” out there.
12/18/2006 | Kathryn Henderson, PhD
Unhealthy snacks a public nuisance
This weekend I attended a performance of The Nutcracker at my local theater – very well done so kudos to the New Haven Ballet. However, my local theater appears to have deemed it necessary hold a candy concession both before the performance and during intermission. What this means for the performance, of course, is that theater-goers are subjected to the crinkling and crackling of candy wrappers throughout its entirety.
12/06/2006 | Kathryn Henderson, PhD
Food waste and obesity
National Public Radio (NPR) ran a story recently on Morning Edition, addressing the problem of Americans wasting (i.e., throwing out) food – apparently, to the tune of $600 per person per year. In the context of an obesity epidemic, this would not seem our nation’s most pressing problem – wouldn’t it actually be better for us to be throwing out more food? However, a closer look reveals some ties between the two issues.
11/24/2006 | Kathryn Henderson, PhD
Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the Annual American Eatfest. Beginning Nov 23 and running through the New Year, most Americans will dine their way through the holiday season. Most Americans will also complain about how difficult it is to maintain during this period the healthy lifestyle they may be striving toward.
10/18/2006 | Kathryn Henderson, PhD
I was recently speaking with an acquaintance who was extolling the virtues of our local Big Y’s “Little Y Kids Club.” This is a service provided to parents of children ages 3 to 9; they may drop off their children for up to two hours of child care while the parents are shopping.
09/28/2006 | Kathryn Henderson, PhD
A new partnership between fast food and obesity research has emerged: McDonald's Corporation recently announced a donation of $2 million to Scripps Research Institute to fund research on obesity and Type 2 diabetes and, specifically, diabetes testing and education for financially disadvantaged children.
09/14/2006 | Kathryn Henderson, PhD
The right thing to do
We spend a lot of time talking about how to change behaviors: of individuals, of communities, of corporations, of government officials and bodies. This leads to a lot of discussion about what kinds of incentives are appropriate to produce certain kinds of desired behaviors.
08/26/2006 | Kathryn Henderson, PhD
Helping parents set limits
According to their website, www.limitv.org was developed “to educate parents, teachers and children about the many ways excessive television viewing can damage a child’s ability to learn, and to recommend alternatives to excessive television viewing.” The organization is also at the ready with research on exactly why TV is bad for kids, especially young kids: they detail the impact on brain development and academic outcomes.
08/08/2006 | Kathryn Henderson, PhD
One to watch
I recently came across an interesting website. Marathon Kids is a school-based fitness program – based largely in urban centers in Texas, although spreading to California – that also incorporates other aspects of health: in the program’s own words, it is a “free, endurance-building running/walking/nutrition/gardening program for kindergartners through 5th graders.” Focus is on the family as well as the children, and the goal appears to be making fitness fun for all, with the sedentary child as its particular target. Seems like a pretty great idea to spread around.
07/28/2006 | Kathryn Henderson, PhD
To Know, or Not To Know?
In the July 23 edition of the New York Times magazine an article titled “Silent Green”, by Rob Walker, appeared. The story focuses on the marketing of “GDiapers”, an eco-friendly diaper with washable cover and flushable, biodegradable lining. Interestingly, the company owners opted not to extol the environmental virtues of their product, rather, to focus their advertising on the product as trendy and high-status. The article references a paper from the journal Environment titled “Avoiding Green Marketing Myopia”, which notes that the key to mainstream success for environmentally friendly products is focusing on cost-effectiveness, convenience, and status, and not on eco-virtur.
07/17/2006 | Kathryn Henderson, PhD
Obesity and eating disorders: Why aren’t we all on the same side?
There appears to have been a recent resurgence of the battle between those in the eating disorders field and those in the field of obesity. Specifically, eating disorder specialists are concerned that efforts to curb obesity in children will result in increased disordered eating behaviors.
05/25/2006 | Kathryn Henderson, PhD
A new and unusual tome has entered the children’s section of your friendly neighborhood bookstore. Eric Schlosser, with Charles Wilson, has produced a “younger” version of his bestselling Fast Food Nation, titled Chew on this: Everything you don’t want to know about fast food. Targeting children ages 9-15, the book details the workings of fast food joints and, in particular, the make-up of the food.
05/25/2006 | Kathryn Henderson, PhD
It’s a relatively new marketing strategy, used to promote all manner of products. It’s simple. It’s extremely low-tech. It is, in a word, word. Of mouth. The best part? It’s free. Bzzz Agents, as they are called in the bizzz, are volunteers. Yes, volunteers. They have agreed to advertise for free. Or, at least, for free plus a “bunch of free stuff”, as one of the FBAs (Free Bzzz Agent, my acronym) so eloquently put it. Click here for the full story on how the program works. The Coles’ Notes version is that the “agent” agrees to try a product and talk it up, in return for free samples of this and other products. Apparently, agents are even encouraged to inform those to whom they are advertising that they are, in fact, advertising. This evidently has little impact on the effect of the advertising. Hmmm. I thought we were smarter than that.