Tag: childhood obesity

Busting Bias and Bullying

By: Courtney Luecking MPH, MS, RD Doctoral candidate: Nutrition

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.

Nearly one in five children in the United States is considered obese. We often think of this as a public health problem because of long-term health consequences such as increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and some types of cancers. However, the consequences of prejudice and discrimination children with obesity face can be equally detrimental.

Children as young as 3 years of age may experience weight bias from peers, teachers, parents, or other family members. These interactions can negatively impact a child’s social relationships, academic achievement, eating and activity behaviors, and overall quality of life.

What can you do?

  • Check out the resources below to educate yourself
  • Question your own biases
  • Use People-First language
  • Commit to stand up against weight bias and bullying


Videos and discussion guides from the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity

HBO’s Weight of the Nation bonus short film “Stigma: The Human Cost of Obesity”


Centers of Disease Control. September is National Childhood Obesity Month. http://www.cdc.gov/features/childhoodobesity/

Obesity Action Coalition. Childhood Obesity Stigma. http://www.obesityaction.org/understanding-obesity-in-children/childhood-obesity-stigma

Obesity Action Coalition. Weight Bias and Stigma. http://www.obesityaction.org/weight-bias-and-stigma

UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. Weight Bias and Stigma. http://www.uconnruddcenter.org/weight-bias-stigma

Danger of Type 1 Diabetes

With the explosive rise in Type 2 diabetes, people tend to ignore or forget the existence of Type 1 diabetes. Ironically, Type 1 diabetes is one of the common diseases around the world, especially among teenagers. That is the reason why Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is also known as juvenile diabetes. Estimatedly, T1D counts for between 5% and 10% of cases of diabetes. The incidence of Type 1 diabetes is still rising.

Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, is a form of diabetes mellitus.  It results from the body’s autoimmune destruction (the system of immune responses of an organism against its own cells and tissues) to its own insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. In contrast to diabetes mellitus type 1, Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder. It is managed by increasing exercise and dietary changes. In another word, unlike Type 2, Type 1 diabetes is not brought by overeating and underexercising.

Currently, most interventions of type 1 diabetes are mainly targeting at enhancing self-management behaviors and glycemic control among adolescent population. They are family based treatments which demand a large amount of money, additional time obligations, and many highly trained mental health professionals, such as behavioral family systems therapy and multi systemic therapy. Because of those requirements of conducting family based treatments, it is difficult to implement such treatments in most cases.

Photo credit: http://trialx.com/curetalk/2010/11/3127/

Poetic Social Justice: An Approach for Type 2 Diabetes Awareness


Public health is often described as a science and an art, but have you thought about using poetry to tackle one of the most significant issues in the nation?

According to the 2014 CDC National Diabetes Statistics Report, there are 29.1 million people with Type 2 Diabetes in the U.S. Several lifestyle behaviors have been linked to the disease, but this public health problem, like many others, is complex and involves several social and environmental factors.

Youth Speaks, Inc. is an organization aimed at promoting, empowering, and create safe places for youth and young people for oral poetry such as spoken word and other works. The organization partnered with the University of California, San Francisco’s Center for Vulnerable Populations to create The Bigger Picture, a campaign to raise awareness about Type 2 Diabetes, including the institutional, environmental, and social factors.

Instead of traditional campaign messages, The Bigger Picture communicates through poetry developed and performed by youth sharing their stories and experiences with the disease, directly and indirectly. The art addresses issues such as physical effects, economic inequalities, class and access to health, and the food and beverage industries.

The poetry takes on several forms, such as metaphors to war and satires of industry, but they aim to start conversation among those affected, especially youth, and to reveal the larger institutional social, and environmental factors that play a role in the epidemic. Some of their pieces can be found on YouTube.

The Bigger Picture is also offering educational scholarships for youth who make great impacts with their statements or with their action.






Produce-ing Junk Food Tactics


Ever think about fighting fire with fire with marketing tactics? As reported by Linden Thayer’s 2012 post, Bolthouse Farms used the same methods used for marketing junk food to sell their baby carrots as attractive, kid-friendly snacks.

Led by former Cola-Cola executive and current CEO of Bolthouse Farms Jeff Dunn, the campaigns have been largely successful. According to CMO Bryan Reese, these campaigns for their products have yielded positive results, “sometimes as much as 10 times over.” In 2013, Bolthouse Farms unveiled its Innovation Center, a location devoted to the development of healthier snacks that are fun and exciting. It also houses the company’s marketing department, where these products are tested.


In 2014, the company partnered with grocery stores such as Giant Eagle and Walmart in a new initiative to market their produce items such as fruit tubes and baby carrots. These “Shakedowns” include flavorings that could easily be found on a bag of chips, such as ranch or chili lime. The items are located in a special section in the produce aisle, complete with signs that mimic the junk food aisle.

This pilot is especially promising, as this health communication strategy changes the environmental context at a grocery store.

As with any new product, drawbacks must be considered. For example, actual consumption of the products as well as the potential health effects of the flavorings used with the vegetables must be analyzed before one can claim success with increasing vegetable consumption. Please share your thoughts on this strategy with Upstream Downstream!

Sources: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/08/25/341963166/grocers-lead-kids-to-produce-aisle-with-junk-food-style-marketing





Soda Taxes Meet Calorie Counting

One of the most common ways people manage their health and weight is by calorie counting – a method of counting the calories in the food a person consumes in an effort to stay at or below a designated total of calorie intake per day. But a new study concerned about the effectiveness of current soda taxes brings forth a whole new idea to calorie counting.

In an effort to combat childhood and adult obesity in this country a number of states have made efforts to implement taxes on soda and other sugary drinks in hopes of curbing their consumption.

Currently, soda taxes are based on the number of ounces a drink contains, but a new study financed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation suggests a new taxing method that is a bit more complex: instead of using a tax based on a drink’s size, use a tax based on the amount of calories contained in a serving of the drink.

Consider this: under the current method of soda taxes, if you buy a 16oz drink that contains only 50 calories instead of a 12oz drink that contains 150 calories you are stuck paying more taxes for the larger drink even though the larger drink is healthier than the smaller drink. Doesn’t make a lot of sense, right? The only benefit behind this style of tax is its attempt to get you to buy a smaller sized drink, yet it has no regard for the sugar or calorie intake.

BUT, under the idea proposed by the recent study, you would pay taxes based on the calorie count – the drink with the more calories per serving would have a higher tax. Thus this new method aims at encouraging you to purchase the less sugary and ultimately healthier drink.

In the end, all of the soda taxes are focused on one central goal: reducing sugar intake in an effort to reduce obesity. The research suggests that calorie-counting based taxes would be more effective, but until the idea is successfully implemented and used it might just be an idea filled of sweet nothings…

To our readers: What are your thoughts on soda taxes? What are your thoughts and responses to this new idea of a soda tax based on calories?

Looking for some good soda tax humor? Check out this hilarious clip brought to us by Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation (shout-out to all of my fellow Hoosiers!).

Post source: “Study Examines Efficacy of Taxes on Sugary Drinks” by Stephanie Strom of The New York Times, published on June 2, 2014 at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/02/business/study-examines-efficacy-of-taxes-on-sugary-drinks.html

A Small Victory as Obesity Rates Fall Among Young Children

A rare type of story hit headlines last week:  Public health success in the area of nutrition and obesity, as the rates of obesity for young children were found to have declined significantly over the past decade.

The report, published in JAMA, actually found no significant changes in the overall obesity prevalence in youth or adults. But, when the researchers looked at the rates among children between the ages of 2 and 5, they found a nearly 43% decline in obesity rates over the past ten years.

What has led to this decline, which seems against the odds in the face of skyrocketing iPad and technology use and less activity among the same demographic?  Theories include:

  • Less soda and juice – Children are consuming far fewer calories from sugary drinks than they were 10 years ago
  • More breastfeeding – More women are breastfeeding, which is found to lead to a healthier range of weight gain for young children
  • Less calories overall – The study found that children in this age group are consuming 4-7% less calories overall, but researches don’t think this would be a significant factor

There’s not yet any conclusive evidence as to the true reason or combination of reasons, but perhaps the public can be hopeful that the country’s focus on fighting the obesity epidemic is beginning to show some success, even on a small scale.

A separate report published last year by the CDC showed that the obesity rates were on the decline for low-income preschoolers in 18 states, and provide information for how state and community officials can continue to help create healthier communities.

But, as the JAMA report concludes, this is only one small victory for the fight against obesity.  A third of adults and 17% of youth are still obese.  With the high prevalence of obesity throughout the population, it is vital to continue in the fight against it.

What do you think is the most important thing the government and we, as members of the community (parents, children, siblings, friends, teachers), should be doing to help build healthier communities?


Photo credit:  Ian D. Keating

Youth Health Hits the Minority Health Conference

On Friday, February 28th, the 35th Annual Minority Health Conference will take place at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

This full-day event brings together scholars and practitioners who study and work on reducing health disparities for minority communities.

This year, the title is “Innovative Approaches to Youth Health: Engaging Youth in Creating Healthy Communities”, and will focus on enabling youth to make a difference in promoting healthy lifestyles to their peers and in their communities.

Keynote speakers include Dr. Gail C. Christopher, Vice President of Program Strategy at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and Michael Yonas, Director or Research, Evaluation and Engagement at the Allegheny County Department of Health and Human Services.

There will be morning and afternoon breakout sessions on topics such as adolescent development, healthcare policy, hard-to-reach youth, and social media, among others.

The Minority Health Conference is the largest and longest running student-led health conference in the country. The conference aims to raise awareness around health disparities and mobilize students, academics, and community members to take action for change. The event was started in 1977 by the UNC Minority Student Caucus.

For more about the conference and the passion behind it, check out the conference video.

Click here to register for the 35th Annual Minority Health Conference.

Can’t make it to Chapel Hill?  Sign up for the free webcast of our keynote speaker: http://minorityhealth.web.unc.edu/conference/keynote-webcast/


*Note – Registration for the in-person event closes Friday, February 14th.


A Dietary Dilemma in Developing Countries

We’ve known for some time that rates of overweight and obesity are on the rise in the world. Here in the United States it’s been on the top-of-mind, top of the news, and, all around.  The U.S. was deemed the fattest country for many years, until being passed by Mexico last year.

While high-income countries in North America and Europe are still the fattest, Mexico is the prime example of how many developing countries are quickly catching up.

The Overseas Development Institute, a public policy think tank in London, released a report showing that numbers of overweight and obese adults in the developing world has nearly quadrupled since 1980, reaching nearly one billion.

Southeast Asia has had the most rapid growth, from 7% in 1980 to now 22% of adults who are overweight or obese.

Obesity graphs

What are the causes of this sudden spike?

  • Higher incomes – leading to more choice in selecting foods
  • Higher availability of processed foods
  • More jobs are sedentary
  • Less physical activity overall

What can be done?

The report calls for policy intervention, which is a hot topic in most countries, including the U.S.  Many people don’t want the government to control, through taxes or bans, what they can eat or drink.

But with this growing public health issue and the potential for skyrocketing rates of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers, the report says some type of government intervention is necessary.  Although the consumption of fat, sugar and salt is rising in most countries, the typical diets still vary greatly from country to country, and region to region.

The report notes that, due to varied diets, any public policy related to food will have to be very country or culture-specific

The question remains: Should the government have any influence in what we eat?


Photo Credit: CJ Plantinos


Fighting to Get Fit: Overcoming the 7 Most Common Barriers to Exercise

Last week we looked at 7 of the most common barriers to making physical activity happen on a regular basis, and found out that the first key to overcoming those barriers is to understanding which one(s) most affect us.

This week we have a few strategies and tips to fight the good fight and conquer those obstacles.

Obstacle #1:  I don’t have time

How to Conquer:   

  • You do have time.  When is it?  Keep track for one week of your free time slots, be it 10 minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour.  Pick 3-4 of those time slots and designate them for physical acivity
  • Multi-task.  If you can, walk or ride your bike to work, to do errands, to school.  If you have a favorite TV show, exercise while you’re doing it.  Even small decisions like choosing the stairs instead of the elevator, or parking further away from the store, will make a difference if you do them consistently. Also check out these tips to get a Workplace Workout.
  • If you only have small bits of time, make that time count.  Running or biking a few miles is often less time than going to the gym, getting on a machine, lifting, etc.  There are pilates and even 14-minute basic yoga workouts.

Obstacle #2: No motivation

How to Conquer:

  • Plan ahead.  Put it on the calendar, and make it happen
  • Don’t do it alone.  Make plans to exercise regularly with a friend.  Two are better than one, and you’re less likely to skip out if there’s someone else holding you accountable.
  • Are you a morning person?  Set your alarm for 30 minutes earlier and go for a brisk walk or jog then. Do you feel more awake at night?  Set aside time right before or after dinner to work out.  Schedule your workout for times when you typically feel energetic, and you’re much more likely to make it happen.

Obstacle #3: It’s not fun

How to Conquer:

  • Join an exercise group or class, even something creative.  There’s Crossfit, Yoga, Pilates, Zumba, Kick-boxing, and a smorgasboard of other options.  Find something that you’ll have fun with and get excited to learn.
  • Don’t do it alone.  Almost anything is more fun with a friend.

Obstacle #4:  I can’t do it

How to Conquer:

  • Know that yes, you can.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, and if you’ve been pretty sedentary for the past few weeks/months/years, you shouldn’t try to go and run 10 miles tomorrow.  And then start small.  Start with activities that you already know how to do, like walking, climbing stairs, or jogging.
  • Consider taking a class to learn a new skill, as long as it’s something that also sounds interesting and that you’ll want to keep going.

Barrier #5: It’s going to hurt

How to Conquer:

  • Learn how to warm up and cool down.  This will GREATLY reduce your risk of injury.
  • Depending on your fitness and skill level, and age, choose an appropriate and achievable exercise goal.
  • Be smart, and start with low-risk activities like walking or swimming.

Barrier #6: I can’t manage it

How to Conquer:

  • Get organized.  See tips for overcoming Barrier #1 above.

Barrier #7:  There’s no place to do it

How to Conquer:

  • If you’re facing a lack of resources, choose activities that require little to no financial investment, like walking, jogging, jumping rope, or calisthenics.  There are likely  plenty of free resources in your community, including community recreation programs or programs at your work.
  • Activities like jumping rope take up very little space, or, try hitting up your local mall and walking there for 30 minutes.  Although you may not have a state-of-the-art gym at your fingertips, there is likely at least one location, indoor or outdoor, that you can access.

A huge player in a lot of these strategies is social motivation.  Make sure to communicate your physical activity goals to your friends and family, and ask them to help motivate you in those goals.  They might even be interested in exercising with you, and planning fun social activities (hiking, walking, swimming) that incorporate physical activity.

Not sure where to find the social supports?  See if there’s a Meetup in your area that is centered around physical activity.  Even something like the Dog Training, Hiking and Fun Meetup, Kickball, or the Parkour, Barefooting & Natural Method Meetup will help get you more active, and you’ll meet some like-minded people along the way.

What could you try this week to begin to overcome one of these barriers?


Photo courtesy of: http://blog.ilcwriters.org

Worth Your Weight In Gold?

Is having extra energy or being able to squeeze into those skinny jeans not enough of a motivator for you to lose weight? Well, how about gold? That’s right, gold. If you are a citizen of Dubai, getting gold for shedding pounds may now be an option.

In an effort to tackle the obesity epidemic, the city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates just launched a new health communication initiative: the “Your Weight in Gold” program. The program, which will last about a month and coincide with the holy month Ramadan, offers registered contestants one gram of gold for each kilogram of weight lost. According to CNN, that’s about $41 per kilogram. Additionally, the three people who lose the most weight over the month period will be entered into a drawing to win a gold coin worth over $5,400.

Obesity is a pervasive problem in the Gulf countries as the quick influx of wealth in recent decades has created a society filled with shopping malls, fast food chains and American-size portions. Additionally, the extreme heat in the area makes it hard for people to exercise outside, so many lead a sedentary life. According to a recent United Nations report, 33.7% of adults in the United Arab Emirates are obese, and the prevalence of childhood obesity in the country is increasing at rates higher than the international standard.

According to the Director of the Dubai Municipality, Ramadan was chosen as a launch time for this initiative as it represents a time of reflection for the people of Dubai; a time to focus on priorities. Also, despite fasting during the daylight hours, many tend to overeat when their fast is broken, the Director added.

What do you think about this initiative? Is a month an appropriate amount of time to initiate this? Was coinciding with Ramadan strategic? Do you think this will encourage long term change and smart, sustainable healthy behavior?