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The Rudd Center Health Digest

June 2010

Interagency Obesity Task Force Report from Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Initiative

WhiteHouse

In April, Rudd Center Director Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, attended a White House meeting for the Task Force on Childhood Obesity. The Task Force recently released its report to the President, “Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity Within a Generation.”

The report’s recommendations include:

  • Analyze the effect of state and local sales taxes on less healthy, energy-dense foods.
  • Schools should be encouraged to consider the impact of food marketing on education.
  • The food and beverage industry and the media and entertainment industry should jointly adopt meaningful, uniform nutrition standards for marketing food and beverages to children, as well as a uniform standard for what constitutes marketing to children.
  • Industry should provide technology to help consumers distinguish between advertisements for healthy and unhealthy foods and to limit their children’s exposure to unhealthy food advertisements.
  • Schools should be encouraged to ensure that choosing a healthy school meal does not have a social cost for a child.

View Rudd Center publications cited in the report for more information about the recommendations:

New Rudd Center YouTube Playlist

Viewing Rudd Center videos just got easier. With the new YouTube playlist users can view all videos by date, title, and length. The playlist also allows users to subscribe to an RSS feed that is automatically updated when new content is released. View our videos exposing the myths and facts about weight bias and prejudice, and seminars and podcasts from guests who have visited the Rudd Center, including Mark Bittman, author, television host, and New York Times columnist.

Food and Addiction Series

University of California Television recently premiered a series, "Food and Addiction: Environmental, Psychological and Biological Perspectives." Two installments come from Rudd Center staff: “The Importance of The Environmental Change,” presented by Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, Rudd Center Director; and “What is Food Addiction and How is it Measured in Humans?” presented by Ashley Gearhardt, MS, a PhD student in Yale’s Clinical Psychology program.

Just Published by the Rudd Center

Obesity Stigma: Important Considerations for Public Health

Weight discrimination poses serious risks to the psychological and physical health of obese individuals and should be considered a social justice issue as well as a public health priority, according to a paper from the Rudd Center in the June issue of the American Journal of Public Health. Authors Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD, Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives, and Chelsea A. Heuer, MPH, Research Associate, argue that weight bias is pervasive and its public health implications are still largely ignored. This paper makes a compelling argument that at least some of the health consequences associated with obesity may be due to the stress and other social consequences obese persons experience as a result of weight bias, stigma, and discrimination.

Reducing Anti-Fat Prejudice in Preservice Health Students: A Randomized Trial

Public health professionals who treat overweight and obese individuals have been shown to have fat prejudice. A new study demonstrates that this prejudice can be heightened or reduced, depending upon the information people receive about the causes of obesity. Fat prejudice increased when people received a curriculum with controllable reasons for obesity (diet/exercise). It decreased when they followed a curriculum with information about genetic and environmental causes. Co-authors of the study, published in the April issue of Obesity, included Kerry S. O’Brien, PhD, University of Manchester, UK; Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD, Rudd Center; Janet D. Latner, PhD, University of Hawaii at Manoa; Azeem S. Mir, MBBS, MPH, Shifa College of Medicine, Pakistan; and John A. Hunter, DPhil, University of Otago, New Zealand.

Rudd Center Community Spotlight: Justin Freiberg

FreibergJustin Freiberg is passionate about sharing the transformative act of growing food with youth. In the summer of 2009, he founded and managed the Urban Foodshed Collaborative in New Haven, Connecticut. The program seeks to reinvent vacant urban spaces through the insights and efforts of local youth. The teenagers cultivate food for local markets and restaurants, and the gardens provide green space for communities.

Freiberg produced a film, Foodshed, which chronicles the changes the New Haven teenagers underwent during their first summer working as urban farmers. The film allows the youth to discuss the potential of urban farms as entrepreneurial opportunities for unemployed teens.

Freiberg recently received his Master’s in Environmental Science from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and holds a Certificate in Conservation Biology from Columbia University. He previously worked with the Wildlife Conservation Society, Added Value, and Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. He has a Master’s and Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Wesleyan University.

School Wellness Assessment Webinar

The Rudd Center and Action for Healthy Kids hosted a webinar on May 14 to discuss the Wellness School Assessment Tool (WellSAT). WellSAT assesses the comprehensiveness and strength of school districts’ local wellness policies in nutrition education and promotion, physical activity/physical education, school meals, and competitive foods. Hundreds of school and health professionals participated. Stay tuned for information on future WellSAT webinars.

Parents’ Support for Food Marketing Regulations Increases with Awareness of Marketing Practices Targeting their Children

A recent Rudd Report describes the result of focus groups with Caucasian, Hispanic, and African American parents that explored parents’ knowledge about marketing techniques used by food companies to target children and their support for government regulation.

The focus groups were held in New York and Chicago and moderated by a professional facilitator. Initially most parents were not knowledgeable about the frequency and negative impact of child-targeted food marketing. Providing examples of current food marketing practices convinced many parents of the need for governmental action. Illustrations included internet advertising and advergames on company Web sites and the Center for Better Business Bureau’s Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative.

Parents’ enhanced awareness of food marketing practices increased their support of societal-level solutions. These findings demonstrate the opportunity for community and advocacy groups to enlist parents in efforts to make changes in their own communities and to call for federal-level regulations.

FOOD FACT

Fed Up

In an effort to raise awareness about the meals that students are served at school, one teacher has become a participant observer in her elementary school’s lunch program. Each day ”Mrs. Q” eats and documents the meal on her anonymous blog, “Fed Up with Lunch: The School Lunch Project.” She includes her opinion of the lunch and how it affects the students’ enjoyment of school meals, their performance, and well-being.

The Latest Rudd Center Podcasts

Geraldine Henchy, MPH, RD
Director of Nutrition Policy, Food Research and Action Center

The Rudd Center’s extensive library of podcasts is available for download on iTunes U, under the Yale University Health & Medicine — Nutrition & Obesity section, or can be subscribed to through an RSS Feed that automatically updates when new content is released. Podcasts can be listened to on a computer or downloaded to a music player.

Front Burner News

Food Industry Group Pledges to Trim Calories

The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, a coalition including Campbell Soup, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Kellogg, Kraft Foods, and PepsiCo, said it will slash one trillion calories by the end of 2012 and one-and-a-half trillion calories by the end of 2015. The 16 members make 20-25% of food consumed in the United States. Read more.

Challenges of Creating a Better Food Label

As part of its effort to improve labeling practices, the FDA asked for public comment on improvements to front-of-pack labeling. In particular, the agency wants to know how consumers read and use such nutritional information, and if there is a way to standardize its presentation to help people make better choices. Read more.

To Tax or not to Tax? States Enter the Soda Wars

Companies that make sugary soft drinks, such as Coke and Pepsi, have been battling with activists worried about obesity. The latest fight: whether to tax soda. Read more.

Oklahoma Puts Hold on School-Bus Ad Bill

SchoolBus

An Oklahoma legislator said he put a hold on a bill that would allow ads on school buses as a way to increase revenue. Sen. Kenneth Corn (D-OK) said the measure does not ban advertising for products such as fast food. Read more.

When Parents’ Good Intentions Disparage Obese Children

Obese children are 65% more likely to be bullied than their peers of normal weight, according to a study published in Pediatrics. But teasing about weight is not confined to schools; it can also occur within the home, according to childhood obesity experts. Read more.

Less Soda May Lower Blood Pressure

Drinking fewer sugar-sweetened beverages – a leading source of added sugar in the U.S. diet – may lower blood pressure, according to research published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. Read more.

Evaluating America's Restaurant Meals

Laws requiring U.S. restaurant chains to list calorie counts have not stopped them from offering unhealthy meals that pack in calories, fat, and salt, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Read more.

D.C. Aims to Add Sales Tax to Soda

The revised proposal, which comes despite fierce opposition from the beverage industry, would extend the city's 6% sales tax to sodas and other "non-alcoholic beverages with natural or artificial sweeteners." Such beverages currently are excluded from the sales tax because they are considered grocery items. Read more.

Link Between Obesity and Federal School Nutrition Programs

Research reveals that children who eat lunch as part of the National School Lunch Program have an increased likelihood of becoming overweight, according to a study published in the Journal of Human Resources. Read more.

VOICES

Why Looks Are the Last Bastion of Discrimination

Over the past half century, the United States has expanded protections against discrimination to include race, religion, sex, age, disability, and, in a growing number of jurisdictions, sexual orientation. Yet bias based on appearance remains permissible in all but one state and six cities and counties. Read more.

Chocolate Formula: Baby Doesn't Know Best

BabyFormula

A new low point has occurred in the nation's nutrition history with the introduction of a product called Enfagrow Premium Chocolate. This is a chocolate-flavored formula, sweetened with sugar and designed for toddlers — ages 12 to 36 months, according to the company — as they transition from infancy to early childhood. Read more.

FOOD MARKETING NEWS

Nutrition Information Is Buried in Chains’ Web Sites

According to new research from EatNation.com, only 12% of the top 100 chain restaurants’ Web sites have nutrition information available in just one click. Fully 19 had no nutrition information at all, and it took more than three clicks to access this information on 39% of the Web sites. Read more.

FTC Seeking Comments on Food Advertising to Children Proposal

The FTC is asking for comments on its proposal to compel information from food and beverage companies about their food marketing to kids. The order is asking for data about spending, marketing activities, and nutrition information. Read more.