Category Archives: Childhood Obesity

Nov 7 2014
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Will Menu Calorie Counts Help Whittle America’s Waistline?

By Sheree Crute

Maricelle Ramirez is a foot soldier in America’s battle against obesity. For three years, Ramirez has politely offered Boston area patrons of McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts, Wendy’s and Subway a $2 gift card in exchange for their estimates of the amount of calories in their fast-food feasts.

“I’ve met all types of people,” Ramirez says, recalling the surprise of encountering a nutritionist who was on her way out of McDonald’s after chowing down on a burger and fries. “She explained that she was just enjoying a meal because she had a craving for something indulgent, but she provided a very careful nutritional analysis of what she was eating.”

At the other end of the spectrum was an older woman leaving Kentucky Fried Chicken with a drumsticks-to-mashed potatoes spread for her family who confessed, “I don’t know much about the calorie content of the food, but it would really make a difference for me and my family if I had more information.”

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Nov 5 2014
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Teen Take Heart

Steven J. Palazzo, PhD, MN, RN, CNE, is an assistant professor in the College of Nursing at Seattle University, and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Nurse Faculty Scholar (2013 – 2016. ) His research focuses on evaluating the effectiveness of the Teen Take Heart program in mitigating cardiovascular risk factors in at-risk high school students.

Steven Palazzo

Difficult problems demand innovative solutions. Teen Take Heart (TTH) is a program I’ve worked to develop, in partnership with The Hope Heart Institute and with support from the RWJF Nurse Faulty Scholars Program, to address locally a problem we face nationally: an alarming increase in obesity and other modifiable cardiovascular risk factors among teenagers. The problem is substantial and costly in both economic and human terms. We developed TTH as a solution that could, if it proves effective in trials that begin this fall in my native Washington state, be translated to communities across the country.

The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America, released recently by the Trust for America’s Health and RWJF, makes it clear that as a nation we are not winning the battle on obesity. The report reveals that a staggering 31.8 percent of children in the United States are overweight or obese and only 25 percent get the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity. The report also finds that only 5 percent of school districts nationwide have a wellness program that meets the physical education time requirement.

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Aug 1 2013
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Human Capital Network: Weight gain and depression in adolescent girls, talking about genetic markers for cancer, the cost of diapers, and more.

Around the country, print, broadcast and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni and grantees. Some recent examples:

RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholar Maria Katapodi, PhD, RN, FAAN, has developed a program to help women at high genetic risk of breast and ovarian cancer share the news with family members, who might also be at risk,  AnnArbor.com reports. The “Family Gene Toolkit” program pairs patients with a genetic counselor and an oncology nurse to discuss how and why to reveal the results of a positive genetic test to family members.

A study led by RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumna Rebecca Thurston, PhD, finds that menopausal women tend to underestimate how often they have hot flashes and night sweats, Medical XPress reports. Treatment for these "vasomotor" symptoms (VMS) is tailored to patients’ self-reported data, meaning the current approach may be underestimating the burden on women. “While very common in menopausal women, hot flashes and night sweats can disrupt a woman's quality of life significantly,” Thurston said. “In order to test new treatments, we need to be sure we are assessing a woman's VMS as accurately as possible.”

RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows alumna Cynthia Crone, MNSc, APN, CPNP, spoke to the Kansas City Star about a $24 million outreach effort underway in Arkansas to inform residents about how to sign up for coverage in the state’s insurance marketplace, when open enrollment begins October 1. Crone leads the Arkansas Insurance Department's Health Benefits Exchange Partnership division.

In discussing Medicare’s new hospital-payment system that takes patient satisfaction scores into account, Lisa Rosenbaum, MD, an RWJF/U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Clinical Scholar, wrote in the New Yorker: “Though there are several factors informing the general likability of physicians beyond how we feel about what they tell us, there is no reason to assume we would be somehow immune to this cognitive bias when it comes time to rate them.”

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May 30 2013
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Human Capital News Roundup: How family structures affect obesity, physical education in elementary schools, ‘study drugs,’ and more.

Around the country, print, broadcast and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni and grantees. Some recent examples:

Smoking and not having a job are the two factors most strongly associated with higher death rates among the country’s least educated white women, according to a study led by RWJF Health & Society Scholar Jennifer Karas Montez, PhD, published today in The Journal of Health and Social Behavior. The study found that the odds of dying for the least educated women were 66 percent greater than for their more highly educated peers between 2002 and 2006, the New York Times reports. Read more about Montez’s research.

Many consumers significantly underestimate the calorie counts of fast food meals, according to a study led by Health & Society Scholars alumnus Jason Block, MD, MPH. One-fourth of study participants underestimated the calories in the meals they ordered by at least 500 calories, USA Today reports, with teens underestimating the most. Among other outlets to report on the findings: United Press International, CBS News, and MedPage Today. Read more about the study.

A survey from Yale and George Mason universities finds that 70 percent of American adults say global warming should be a priority for the nation’s leaders, the Los Angeles Times reports, and an even greater percentage say developing sources of clean energy should be a priority. The survey was co-authored by RWJF Investigator Awards in Health Policy Research recipient Edward W. Maibach, PhD, MPH, who directs the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University.

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Jan 11 2013
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Morphing Medical Practices into Health Practices

Liana Orsolini-Hain, PhD, RN, ANEF,FAAN, is an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health Policy Fellows program (20112012), through which she worked at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Immediate Office of the Secretary. This post is part of the "Health Care in 2013" series.

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My New Year’s resolution for the U.S. health system involves all of us. During my tenure as an RWJF Health Policy Fellow in the Immediate Office of the Secretary of Health, I learned how a small percentage of Americans use up a majority of health care resources.  The percentage of individuals who consume a high volume of resources will likely increase as we age, with little regard for our own level of health. 

We all need to be a part of the solution to making access to health care and access to health sustainable for current and future generations by caring about and for our own health. Do we exercise regularly? Do we get enough sleep? Do we eat fruits and vegetables every day? Have we stopped smoking? Do we manage our stress levels? Do we practice what we preach?

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Oct 31 2012
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Living and Learning at the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting

Myra Parker, JD, PhD, is acting instructor at the Center for the Study of Health and Risk Behaviors, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine, University of Washington and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) New Connections grantee. This post is part of a series in which RWJF scholars, fellows and alumni who are attending the American Public Health Association annual meeting reflect on the experience.

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I took my seven-year-old daughter to help me pick up my registration materials at the Moscone Center. I was thrilled to map the American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian (AI/AN/NH) sessions and discover they are located in one of the central buildings this year! It’s terrific to be able to attend the general sessions AND those specific to my community, which has not always been the case with AI/AN/NH sessions held in off-site hotels last year in Washington, D.C.

My daughter was amazed and excited to see the performances outside the convention center. The artistic displays added to the air of festivity as American Public Health Association (APHA) attendees took over the Moscone area. I was excited to see the diversity of attendees across many different professional backgrounds and ethnic/cultural communities.

We attended the American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Caucus General Membership Business Meeting. This was the first time I had the opportunity to attend the business meeting, which included officer elections for the upcoming two years, introductions of members and visitors, and updates on the caucus budget and events. The caucus was able to fund six undergraduate, masters, and doctoral students from AI/AN/NH communities to attend APHA this year at $2,000 each. This is a wonderful new opportunity for these students, each of whom also applied to present a poster at the conference. I plan to attend the caucus social on Monday evening, which includes a silent auction of native art! This fundraiser contributes to the cost of providing caucus-specific sessions as well as to the student scholarship fund. I also learned that if we pack a room at the conference, there is a higher chance the caucus will be able to offer these sessions next year.

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Apr 27 2012
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Project SHAPE LA: Nurse Faculty Scholar Alum Aims to Help Children Get Active

Kynna Wright-Volel, PhD, RN, MPH, PNP-BC, FAAN, an assistant professor at the University of California, Los Angeles and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Nurse Faculty Scholar alumna, recently won a five-year, $1.2 million grant funded jointly by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Nursing Research and Office of Behavioral Social Science Research. She will use the grant to work with the Los Angeles Unified School District to launch Project SHAPE LA™, a coordinated school-health program designed to increase physical activity among youth in Los Angeles County schools.

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Human Capital Blog: Please share your vision for Project Shape LA™, what its goals are and how many children and teens it will reach.

Kynna Wright-Volel: Project SHAPE LA™ targets 24 middle schools in underserved areas of Los Angeles and will touch nearly 12,000 students. With this grant, we want physical education teachers to ignite a passion for physical activity – to teach kids that by being active, they can be healthy and achieve their dreams. Anticipated outcomes from this program include: increased moderate to vigorous physical activity; increased scores on the California State Board of Education’s FitnessGram Test in the areas of aerobic fitness, body composition and muscular strength/endurance; and increased academic achievement, as evidenced by higher scores on the California standardized test.

HCB: Why is a project like this needed in your community?

Wright-Volel: According to the L.A. County Department of Public Health, one in five children in the Los Angeles Unified School District is considered obese. Health inequities exist as well; children who are racial and ethnic minorities and/or come from families with low incomes have higher rates of obesity.

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Jun 20 2011
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My Sugar Obsession

Najaf Ahmad, M.P.H., is a Communications Associate with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Human Capital Portfolio. She has contributed to RWJF’s efforts in the areas of health insurance coverage and nursing since joining the Foundation in 2004, and is currently working on initiatives to build capacity in the health and health care workforce.

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I’m obsessed with sugar and so is my husband. It wasn’t always this way; we used to spend many evenings sharing a pint of Ben & Jerry’s curled up in front of the TV.

That was until we became neurotic new parents.

In our quest to become good—and healthy—parents, nutrition became a new-found obsession. Our determination to model healthy behaviors for our child meant, among other things, reassessing our diet. To guide our efforts, we spent many evenings voraciously reading up on diet and nutrition–this time without Ben & Jerry.

It was right around then that I first heard of award-winning science journalist Gary Taubes. He had just published Good Calories, Bad Calories, his magnum opus examining the relationship between carbohydrates and obesity. A Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Investigator in Health Policy Research, Taubes has rediscovered the relationship between excess consumption of sugar, chronic health problems, obesity and food policy. He is one of only a few journalists that the Investigator program has funded.

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Apr 21 2011
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Study by RWJF Physician Faculty Scholars Alumna Gives Good Marks to Nurse Interventions with Obese Children

Elsie Taveras, M.D., M.P.H., an alumna of the 2010 class of RWJF Physician Faculty Scholars, has an article in the April 4, 2011, issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine reporting on early results from a two-year study of interventions aimed at obese children. Her study tests a primary-care-based intervention that relies on regular follow-ups by nurses.

First year results show that girls in a test group receiving the intervention, as well as all children in the group from households earning less than $50,000, were less likely to gain weight during the first year of the program than children in a control group. The nurse interventions also helped children in the study group cut down on their television-watching and consumption of sodas and fast food.

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Feb 15 2011
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February's RWJF Clinical Scholars Health Policy Podcast Focuses on Philadelphia's Fight Against Childhood Obesity

In this month’s RWJF Clinical Scholars Health Policy Podcast former RWJF Clinical Scholar Donald Schwarz, M.D., M.B.A., (University of Pennsylvania, 1985-1987), Philadelphia Health Commissioner and Deputy Mayor for Health and Opportunity, discusses his work combating the childhood obesity epidemic in Philadelphia, touching on that effort’s controversial soda tax. In his conversation with podcast series host, Matthew Press, M.D., Schwarz also talks about the impact of health care reform at the city health level, and the learning curve required to transition from a career in academia to government service.

Read more about the RWJF Clinical Scholars program. For an overview of RWJF scholar and fellow opportunities, visit www.RWJFLeaders.org.