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March 7, 2014
The majority of employers who offer health insurance also offer employee wellness programs such as smoking cessation groups and walking programs to encourage employees to set and achieve health goals in exchange for financial perks. One approach that is increasingly being used to incentivize employees is to pay them (through insurance rebates) for achieving health goals.
In a recently published commentary in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, authors Rebecca Puhl, PhD, Rudd Center Deputy Director, and Lenny Lesser, MD, MSHS, Assistant Research Physician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation Research Institute, discuss the effectiveness of these programs.
According to the authors, monetary incentives can help employees start to make healthy changes, but these changes are difficult to sustain in the long term. “These programs do not address key factors that impact public health: marketing, pricing and the easy availability of unhealthy food,” according to lead author, Lenny Lesser, MD, MSHS. “It also unfairly places the responsibility on individuals to change health indices over which they have little personal control. Ignoring environmental and biological forces that contribute to obesity can undermine a program’s ability to help people reach weight outcomes or change health behavior.”
The authors suggest that employers create a healthier work environment. Tactics like providing time and space for physical activity or removing sugary drinks would make it easier for employees to engage in healthy behavior in the workplace, and these strategies would prevent the stigmatization and ethical problems associated with incentivizing weight loss.
Rudd Report Shows that Children Need to Be Protected from Unhealthy Food Marketing Until at Least Age 14
March 5, 2014
Current food marketing practices present a significant public health threat for older children and teens, according to a report recently released by the Rudd Center. The report suggests that children ages 12 to 14 are highly vulnerable to influence from unhealthy food marketing, and policy solutions are needed to protect children until at least age 14.
The food industry’s self-regulatory program, the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, recognizes that companies should not target advertising for unhealthy foods to children 11 years and younger due to their greater vulnerability to advertising. However, the industry currently considers children ages 12 and older to be appropriate targets for marketing that encourages consumption of unhealthy products.
Yet, according to the report, this age group remains extraordinarily susceptible to the influence of food advertising, and middle school-age is a period of unique vulnerability.
March 5, 2014
The soda industry influenced news coverage of two soda tax ballot measures in the cities of Richmond and El Monte, California, according to research recently released by the Berkeley Media Studies Group. Researchers analyzed news articles and industry publications from November 2011 to January 2013 and found that the soda industry infiltrated news stories while camouflaging its identity.
According to the researchers, the industry recruited a broad range of community spokespeople to voice an anti-tax position on their behalf, and many of these sources received industry funding but were not identified as connected to industry. The researchers assert that this allowed soda companies to distance themselves from the political debate and create the appearance that opposition to the taxes came from within the community, rather than from a well-funded PR campaign.
Leading Childcare Provider Implements Wellness Policies Guided by the Rudd Center’s Wellness Child Care Assessment Tool
February 28, 2014
Learning Care Group, the second largest private childcare provider in North America, has committed to creating healthier environments at 900 of their schools across the county.
The childcare provider will work with the Partnership for a Healthier America to implement standards that align with Let's Move! Child Care goals for physical activity, screen time, food, beverages, infant feeding, and parent engagement.
The standards will be shaped in part by the Wellness Child Care Assessment Tool, a resource developed by researchers at the Rudd Center and the Harvard School of Public Health that help childcare providers assess and implement healthier wellness policies in childcare settings.
February 27, 2014
To provide consumers with nutrition information that reflects the latest science on the link between diet and chronic diseases such as obesity and heart disease, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed changes to labels on food packages for the first time in twenty years. The proposed re-design aims to make it easier for consumers to make healthier choices.
The FDA today proposed to update the Nutrition Facts Label for packaged foods by replacing out-of-date serving sizes to better align with how much people really eat, and featuring a simple design to highlight key parts of the label such as calories and serving sizes.
Among the proposed changes to the Nutrition Facts Label:
- Calories would be in a larger, bolder print.
- The “sugars” category would now include a separate number for grams of added sugar; currently, naturally occurring and added sugars are reported as one number. Breaking it down reflects the growing concern over the amount of added sugar people consume from processed food.
- "Calories from fat" would be eliminated, but total fat, saturated, and trans fats will remain, reflecting research which shows that the type of fat consumed is more important than the amount.
- Serving sizes would be more prominent and more accurately reflect the portion sizes people actually consume.
- Vitamin D and potassium would be listed instead of vitamins A and C, reflecting growing concern that people are not consuming enough of these nutrients.
“The proposed changes reflect significant improvements to the outdated label,” said Rudd Center Research Associate, Christie Munsell, MS, RD. “Our eating habits have changed over the last two decades and the proposed changes reflect the reality of the modern diet, and are consistent with the Dietary Guidelines and latest research on nutrition.”
The inclusion of added sugars to the label is one of the most significant changes, asserts Munsell. The Dietary Guidelines state that intake of added sugar is too high in the U.S. population and should be reduced. According to the FDA, Americans eat 16 percent of their daily calories from added sugar.