Childhood Obesity Policy Update: October 8, 2013

Federal Policy

Government Shutdown Continues; USDA Announces Additional WIC Funding
In an update to its shutdown contingency plans, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced last week that there is enough funding to operate the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) through late October. USDA had originally predicted enough WIC funding to last a week, but a combination of federal and state contingency funds along with leftover funds discovered from FY2013 increased the program’s short-term capacity. Late last week, the House passed legislation introduced by Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., to fund WIC through the duration of the government shutdown; the bill is opposed by Senate Democrats, the National WIC Association, and others calling for a “clean” continuing resolution that would fund the government in its entirety.

Senators to Energy Drink Companies: Stop Marketing to Children
Senators Ed Markey, D-Mass., John Rockefeller, D-W.Va., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Richard Bluementhal, D-Conn., recently sent letters to officials at 17 energy drink companies, urging them to “commit to voluntary steps in the marketing and promotion of energy drink products, including not marketing to children nor selling products in K-12 schools.” The letters also call on the companies to “agree to voluntarily label their products with total amounts of caffeine, as well as report adverse events associated with consumption of energy drinks to the Food and Drug Administration.” A Senate Commerce Committee hearing in July examined the marketing practices of energy drink companies—witness at the hearing included Jennifer Harris, director of marketing initiatives at the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity

State and Local Policy

San Diego Announces Childhood Obesity Rate Decline
Leaders of the San Diego Childhood Obesity Initiative announced last week that obesity rates among fifth-, seventh-, and ninth-grade students in the city declined by 3.7 percent between 2005 and 2010, outpacing a statewide 1.1 percent decline among such students over the same timeframe. Officials with the initiative—a public-private partnership composed of local government representatives and business, healthcare and media professionals—pointed to their efforts promoting strong school wellness policies, encouraging physicians to include obesity prevention messages in clinical practices, and creating farm-to-school partnerships that bring fresh produce to local students.

University of Michigan Health System Announces Ban on Soda Sales
The University of Michigan Health System and University of Michigan Medical School announced plans last week to remove all sodas and sugary drinks from its facilities beginning this November.  The new Healthy Beverage Program will cover 52 health and hospital facilities, 80 medical school facilities, and more than 120 clinical facilities serving a combined 27,000 staff and 1.9 million patient/family visits annually. According to the announcement, the goal of the program is to “reduce obesity and its related health conditions—such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke—that arise from over-consumption of sugar.”

From the Field

Report Analyzes Athlete Endorsements of Unhealthy Foods
The majority of the food and beverage brands endorsed by professional athletes are for unhealthy products such as sports beverages, soft drinks, and fast food, according to a new study by the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity. The study, appearing in the November issue of Pediatrics, analyzes the endorsements of 100 professional athletes; of the 512 brands associated with these athletes, food and beverage brands were the second largest category of endorsements. Results show that 93 percent of the 46 beverages endorsed by athletes derived all of their calories from added sugar, while nearly 80 percent of the advertised foods were "energy-dense and nutrient-poor."  

Calorie, Sodium Levels Remain High in Chain Restaurant Entrees
The overall calorie and sodium levels remained the same in the main entrées offered by top U.S. chain restaurants in 2010 and 2011—despite industry pledges to improve the nutritional quality of options—according to a study published last week in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The study—supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through its Healthy Eating Research program—found that “restaurants made no meaningful nutrition changes overall” during the timeframe, during which the average entrée remained at 670 calories and sodium levels only dropped from 1,515 milligrams  to 1,500 milligrams. The study follows a 2012 report from the same authors which found that 96 percent of entrées by top U.S. chain restaurants failed to meet daily recommended limits for calories, sodium, fat and saturated fat. 

Upcoming Events

How State Health Agencies Can Support the Physical Activity Guidelines
October 9, 2013
2:00-3:00 ET
Sponsored by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, this webinar will provide an overview of evidence-based physical activity programs and intervention strategies that have been shown to be effective in the school environment. Register for the webinar.

Teaching Nutrition and Physical Activity in Medical School: Training Doctors for Prevention-Oriented Care
October 17, 2013
9:00 AM – 2:30 PM ET
Washington, D.C.
Sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and the American College of Sports Medicine, this conference will highlight innovative approaches taken by medical schools to increase nutrition and physical activity training. Register for the conference

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