Childhood Obesity Policy Update: August 6, 2013

    • August 6, 2013

Federal Policy

Obesity Rates Decline among Young Children from Low-Income Families
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that obesity rates among preschool children from low-income families have declined in 18 states and one U.S. territory, and increased in only three states.  The report provides state-specific data on obesity rates among children ages 2 to 4 who are enrolled in federal health and nutrition programs, such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. Jim Marks, senior vice president and director of the Health Group at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said the report “shows our nation is making important progress in efforts to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic,” and noted that it “builds on other positive reports that have come from all around the nation over the past few years.”

House GOP to Propose $40 Billion in SNAP Cuts
House Republican leaders announced last week their intention to propose legislation that would cut $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), nearly double the $20.5 billion in SNAP cuts included in a Farm Bill proposal that the House rejected in June. The new bill is expected to be introduced in September. Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., called the proposal “appalling,” while House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said that doubling the proposed cuts “effectively kills any hopes of passing a five-year farm bill this year.”

Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Energy Drinks
The Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing last week that examined the content and marketing of energy drinks and featured the testimony of Dr. Jennifer Harris, director of marketing initiatives at the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity. According to Rudd Center research, most energy drinks contain unhealthy levels of sugar, sodium, and caffeine and are heavily marketed to young people. At the hearing, a representative from Red Bull pledged that it will not feature children in advertisements and also will include total caffeine content on its product labels.  

State and Local Policy

San Antonio Reports Obesity Rate Decline
Officials in San Antonio, TX, reported last week that the city’s adult obesity rate “plunged” from 35.1 percent to 28.5 percent between 2010 and 2012, amounting to more than 70,000 men and women moving into healthy weight categories. Declines were reported across multiple age, gender, and race/ethnicity categories during the timeframe, with the greatest improvement documented among middle class Hispanics with some post-secondary education.

New York City Loses Appeal of Soda Size Limitation Ruling
A prohibition on limiting the size of sugar-sweetened beverages sold in New York City was upheld last week by New York State appellate court, which ruled unanimously that the City’s board of health lacked the jurisdiction to put such a rule in place. Scheduled to take effect last March before a lower court intervened, the rule was designed to further reduce obesity rates, which have recently declined citywide. City officials announced that they plan to appeal the ruling to full Court of Appeals, the state court of last resort.  

From the Field

Study Probes Health Impact of Proposed Changes to SNAP
A new study from the Health Impact Project—a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts—examines the potential health impacts and health-related costs of proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) now under consideration by Congress. The analysis found that as many as 5.1 million people could lose SNAP eligibility; among these are 1.4 million children and nearly 900,000 older adults. The proposed changes could also increase the number of Americans who live in poverty and who have difficulty getting enough to eat.

Health Advocates Urge USDA to Promote Healthy SNAP Purchases
In a letter to Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, more than 70 health advocacy organizations, physicians, and nutrition experts urged USDA to allow states to create pilot programs that would promote healthy food and beverage purchases by participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Requests in recent years from Minnesota and New York City to establish pilot programs restricting purchases of sugar-sweetened beverage purchases have been denied.  

Report on Food Marketing Costs Examines Impact of Industry Spending
A new study by Bridging the Gap and the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity delves into the most recent Federal Trade Commission report on food marketing, which found that food and beverage companies spent less on marketing to children in 2009 than they did in 2006. The new study shows that the single largest decrease in marketing expenses was due to a drop in the cost and distribution of toys that fast-food restaurants offered with kids’ meals and that the majority of spending on youth-directed ads still goes for fast-foods, carbonated drinks, and other unhealthy fare. The new study also discusses the impact of industry’s spending, including on newer marketing platforms, like online games, ads, mobile apps, text messaging, and social networks.  

Upcoming Events

Findings from Hunger in our Schools:  Teachers Report 2013
August 7, 2013
1:00 – 2:00 PM ET
The Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign is hosting a webinar to feature findings from their annual survey of teachers and their perspective on hunger and its impact on students. Register for the webinar.

Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior Annual Conference
August 9-12, 2013
Portland, OR
The Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior will allow nutrition education professionals to meet and learn from nutritionists from extension, public health, government, academia, industry, and community settings. Register for the conference.

Zoning for the Public's Health: Using Mixed-Use Zoning to Increase Walkability and Reduce Crime
August 15, 2013
1:00 – 2:00 PM ET
Sponsored by Public Health Law and Active Living Research, this webinar will share the latest research that supports neighborhood design as a means to reduce crime and increase neighborhood walkability. Register for the webinar