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The Rudd Center Health Digest

August 2010

Child Nutrition Bill Passed by Senate

First Lady Michelle Obama recently pleaded with Congress to pass the child nutrition bill to help fight overweight, obesity, and hunger in American children. Her goal came closer to reality when the Senate unanimously passed the Healthy, Hungry-Free Kids Act, which allocates $4.5 billion over the next 10 years to improve school meals. The bill now moves to the House, which must vote by September 30, when current child nutrition programs will expire.

The bill would make the following improvements by increasing the rate for reimbursable meals by six cents:

  • Boost the number of low-income children who qualify for reduced-price or free school meals
  • Set higher nutritional standards for items sold in the lunch line and vending machines by incorporating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and reducing fat and salt
  • Remove a la carte and vending machine junk food

Stay tuned to the Health Digest for updates on this crucial legislation.

Obesity Rates Continue to Soar

In 2007, three states saw one-third of its adult obese, according to the CDC. Within two years, the number of states with a 33% obesity rate tripled to nine, all of which are in the southern U.S. Obesity rates are also higher among African Americans, Hispanics, and individuals without a high school diploma.

"Obesity is a societal problem, and it will take a societal response," said Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, CDC Director.

Guidelines for Food Marketing to Children Delayed Again

Last year Congress directed federal agencies to recommend standards to regulate food marketing geared to children. The deadline for the agencies – the FTC, FDA, USDA, and CDC – has passed and a new date had not been released.

The call for stricter standards came amid criticism of the food and beverage industries’ self-regulatory pledge – the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative ­– launched in 2007. The industry identifies many questionable foods as “better for you” options. Under the industry’s advertising initiative, companies agree to advertise foods and beverages that meet their nutritional criteria during TV programs, on Web sites, and in print outlets aimed primarily at children younger than 12. Public health experts question the industry pledges on the grounds that the nutrition criteria are lax and children’s media is so narrowly defined that most marketing that touches children is not affected.

“Industry self-regulation regarding marketing to children has been a failure. Children are still overwhelmed with powerful and pervasive messages from industry that push calorie-dense, nutrient-poor foods,” said Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, Rudd Center Director. “There is a real urgency for government to act.”

Rudd Center Launches Fall Seminar Series

Bittman

Mark Bittman, Author, New York Times Columnist, and Television Host, spoke during the Spring 2010 Seminar Series.

Each semester the Rudd Center hosts many renowned experts in academics, public policy, and the media to discuss their work and its implications for the study of obesity, food policy, and weight bias. The Fall 2010 Seminar Series will welcome Kevin W. Concannon, Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services in the USDA; Shiriki Kumanyika, PhD, MPH, Professor of Epidemiology and Associate Dean for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine; and Richard F. Daines, MD, FACP, Commissioner of Health for the New York State Department of Health.

Upcoming Seminar Speakers

September 15, 12:30 pm
Peter Kaminsky
Author, Journalist
In Search of the Perfect Pig (and Some Other Delicacies)

September 22, 12:30 pm
Richard F. Daines, MD, FACP
Commissioner of Health, New York State Department of Health
Selling Public Health Policy in Derivative Markets: Lessons from the 2009-2010 New York State Sugary Beverage Excise Tax Campaigns

September 29, 12:30 pm
Kathryn Montgomery, PhD
Professor, School of Communication, American University
Recent Trends in Digital Food Marketing

October 6, 12:30 pm
Kevin W. Concannon
Under Secretary; Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services; USDA
No Nation Healthier than its Children

Unless otherwise noted, seminars are held at the Rudd Center, located at 309 Edwards Street in New Haven, Connecticut, 06511. The seminars are free and open to the public. Seating is limited. The full schedule for our Fall Seminar Series is available online and for download as a PDF document.

Subscribe to our mailing list to receive reminders of upcoming seminars and schedule changes.

Rudd Center Spotlight: Richard F. Daines, MD, FACP

DainesRichard F. Daines, MD, FACP, Commissioner of Health for New York State, will discuss New York’s campaign for an excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages during the Rudd Center’s Fall 2010 Seminar Series on September 22.

As Commissioner, Dr. Daines heads one of the nation’s leading public health agencies. Under his leadership, the Department of Health administers the state’s public health insurance programs, regulates hospitals and other healthcare facilities, conducts research in a premier biomedical laboratory, and supports public health prevention initiatives.

Dr. Daines received a Bachelor of History degree from Utah State University and served as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Bolivia. He received his medical degree from Cornell University Medical College, served a residency in internal medicine at New York Hospital, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine.

Prior to becoming Commissioner, Dr. Daines was the President and CEO of St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center and the Senior Vice President for Professional Affairs and Medical Director at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, New York.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Sixth Sense

In addition to sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and protein-rich, humans’ sixth taste is fatty, according to researchers at Deakin University in Australia. Sensitivity to the taste could affect consumption of fatty foods and, therefore, lead to overweight and obesity.

Library of Podcasts

Mark Bittman
Author, New York Times Columnist, Television Host

Kelly D. Brownell, PhD
Director, Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, Yale University
A Perspective on Taxing Sugared Beverages

Brian Wansink, PhD
John S. Dyson Endowed Chair, Applied Economics and Management Department, Cornell University; Director, Cornell Food and Brand Lab; Former Executive Director, USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion
Turning Mindless Eating into Healthy Eating

Michael Pollan, MA
Knight Professor of Journalism and Director, Knight Program in Science and Environmental Journalism, UC Berkeley; Contributing Writer, The New York Times Magazine
In Defense of Food: The Omnivore's Solution

Marion Nestle, PhD
Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health; New York University
Food Politics: The Perfect Storm

Our full collection of podcasts is available for download on iTunes U, under the Yale University Health & Medicine – Nutrition & Obesity category. You also may subscribe to an RSS Feed that will automatically update whenever new content is released. Podcasts can be listened to on a computer or downloaded to a music player.

Front Burner News

Family Meals and Vegetables May Keep Children Trim

Family

Children who regularly sit down to family meals and get plenty of vegetables in their diet tend to be thinner than their peers without such eating habits, according to a new study in the Journal of Pediatrics. Read more.

Health Ads Stigmatize Obesity

Overweight people may feel stigmatized by public health campaigns which do little to help them lose weight, according to a study led by researchers at Monash University. Read more.

Most Unaware of Amount of Calories to Eat

A new survey from the International Food Information Council Foundation showed that 63% of people cannot accurately estimate their daily calorie requirements, 25% refused to venture a guess, and only 12% knew the number. Read more.

Massachusetts Bill to Improve School Nutrition Signed

Gov. Deval Patrick signed a bill that will change the way Massachusetts public school students eat, by banning the use of fryolators and requiring the sale of fresh fruits and non-fried vegetables. Read more.

McDonald's Defends Happy Meals

Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer group, recently sued McDonald’s, asking that toys not be used to market foods of poor nutritional quality. In addition, officials in Santa Clara County, California passed an ordinance banning the use of toys in high-calorie children’s meals. McDonald’s Chief Executive Jim Skinner responded by calling the Happy Meal a "fun treat." Read more.

Obesity Prevention Works Best in the Under-Five Crowd

Community-based interventions that involve schools, parents, and healthcare institutions work best in preventing obesity in children younger than five, according to a study by researchers at Deakin University in Australia. Read more.

Crippling Costs of Obesity in the Workplace

More companies are starting wellness programs in light of research indicating that the increasing number of overweight workers has a greater impact on profits than previously thought. Read more.

Too Many Tots Watching Too Much TV

A study of two-year-olds in Oregon found that almost 20% watch more than the recommended two hours of television a day. Experts have warned that too much time in front of the TV could raise the risk for obesity. Read more.

VOICES

Taxing Sodas for a Healthier Economy?

The average American drinks a gallon of soda a week, which delivers roughly 1,000 calories and no nutrition. The average American is also overweight or obese. Could changing one of those things help change the other? Read more.

Big Soda Deserves Taxes, not Subsidies

Huge amounts of SNAP dollars (formerly known as Food Stamps) are used to purchase carbonated soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages. These drinks are nutritionally worthless and promote obesity. Read more.

Whether a Child Lights Up or Chows Down

Smoking

If you had to choose one public health problem to attack, which would it be: teenage smoking or childhood obesity? Read more.

FOOD MARKETING NEWS

Push to End Tax Subsidies for Fast Food Advertising

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) introduced a bill that could raise billions of dollars in revenue to fund child nutrition and anti-obesity initiatives by preventing companies from writing off advertising of junk food targeted at children as a tax deduction. Read more.

Food and Beverage Companies in India Make Advertising Pledge

Seven major Indian food and beverage companies have signed a pledge committing themselves to responsible advertising and marketing to children, the first such self-regulatory pledge in India. Read more.