Oct 31, 2019, 2:00 PM, Posted by
Renee Boynton-Jarrett, MD, ScD, believes that children’s health and well-being are intricately and inextricably connected to their family and community.
When a mother walked into my health clinic five years ago with her 13-year-old daughter, she wanted to know why her daughter had gained a significant amount of weight in a matter of months. She was concerned an underlying medical condition might have caused the sudden spike her daughter’s weight. I was concerned as well. Childhood obesity is an epidemic that affects far too many children and it is linked to other serious, chronic health conditions, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and asthma.
I knew I would run tests and order blood work, but I also wanted to know what factors in her social world could have sparked the weight change. We sat down together to look at her daughter’s growth chart, see when the growth trajectory started to accelerate, and what could have been happening then. “Did anything change in your family? Do you recall anything that happened around that time?”
The mom suddenly realized that the changes started shortly after the girl’s father was incarcerated. That’s information I could not have gotten from a blood test. Nor if I had rattled off recommendations without first sitting down to listen.
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Sep 19, 2019, 10:00 AM, Posted by
Mary Story, Tina Kauh
The nation’s leading health and nutrition organizations have issued evidence-based recommendations for parents, caregivers, health professionals and policymakers.
“Should I be giving my toddler milk?”
“What’s the difference between fruit juice and a fruit-flavored drink?”
“I thought fat was good for my kids. Why should I switch my 2-year-old to low-fat milk?”
Every day, parents, caregivers, child-care providers and others struggle with questions like these about what kids should drink—and what they shouldn’t. They’re trying to do their best for kids’ health, but it’s not as easy as it may sound.
Ensuring that kids grow up healthy includes paying attention not only to what they eat, but also what they drink, especially during the early years when they are establishing their eating patterns. To do that, parents and caregivers need clear, consistent advice from health professionals about what drinks are healthiest for their kids. And policymakers need guidance so that they can create the strongest policies possible to help all children grow up healthy.
But, faced with an array of product choices and inconsistent messages about what’s healthy and what’s not, it can be challenging to know which beverages kids should drink, especially since recommendations seem to change every few months as kids get older.
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Nov 17, 2016, 3:00 PM, Posted by
Donald F. Schwarz, Richard Hamburg
Teaming up to reverse childhood obesity has yielded promising results—including new data that shows rates among 2-4 year olds enrolled in the federal WIC program have declined in 31 states. But the work is far from over.
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Nov 1, 2016, 9:00 AM, Posted by
Providers need to be equipped with the tools to help patients make healthy choices. That’s why the Alliance for Healthier Generation is recognizing innovative training programs providing nutrition, physical activity and obesity counseling education to their students.
Even at the young age of four, Luke was overweight. In fifth grade, he tried out for the baseball team, and although he made it, he struggled that season. He was slower than the other kids as he rounded the bases, and he started having knee pain from the extra weight on his joints. Luke and his family knew they had to do something. But they dreaded going to the doctor, knowing he’d get weighed and then have to confront the escalating numbers on the scale. Year after year, the same thing would happen, and they’d have the same discussion with his doctor when they finally worked up the nerve to go. But the weight never came off.
Apprehension about a visit to the doctor is something we all face, no matter our age or health. Who among us doesn’t get a little nervous before our annual visit, knowing we might face a difficult conversation about losing weight, or flossing more, or stopping smoking? These are things we all know, but have a hard time talking about.
And even worse, if we do have these important conversations, they can lead to feelings of shame and disappointment.
But the reality is that it’s not necessarily your doctor’s fault. Even with the hundreds of thousands of hours of education your doctor gets in classrooms and hospitals, most receive little to no training in how to talk to patients about making healthy choices. In fact, fewer than 30 percent of medical schools meet the minimum number of hours of education in nutrition and exercise recommended by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
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Sep 29, 2016, 11:00 AM, Posted by
Monica Hobbs Vinluan
Kids eat up to half their daily calories at school. Today school foods are healthier than ever, and that means a brighter future for our kids.
A truly pivotal moment in my life was when I first joined my daughter Riley for a school lunch date in 2009 when she entered first grade.
We walked through a lunch line that swirled with unhealthy options. Mashed potatoes floated in pools of gravy and ice cream was the most popular item on the menu. Healthy foods were hard to come by—the line was dominated by sweets, chips and other snacks. I was stunned as both a parent and someone who spent my working hours trying to create healthier conditions for kids to thrive in.
Riley is 13 years old now, and my son Reese is 11. Over the years, I’ve continued to meet both of my kids at school for lunch. I’m happy to share, firsthand, how updated nutrition standards and lunchroom champions have transformed our school meal times into something we are excited about!
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Jun 1, 2016, 12:30 PM, Posted by
Katherine Hempstead, Victoria Brown
Innovative approaches in health insurance can help support youth development and prevent chronic diseases.
While research shows that access to safe neighborhood spaces for physical activity along with affordable healthy foods help families and kids maintain a healthy weight, it’s often not enough.
Health care economist Mike Bertaut illustrated this reality through a deeply personal and passionate post last month. He opened up about his lifelong struggle with obesity and shared some important lessons about how the health care sector can help children maintain a healthy weight. It’s a moving piece worth reading.
As Mike shows us, health care providers—and health insurers—have a critical role to play, especially for children and families at highest risk for obesity and obesity-related disease.
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Apr 5, 2016, 11:00 AM, Posted by
We want all kids to enter kindergarten at a healthy weight. And we believe it’s possible within the decade.
Pregnancy through early childhood forms a critical window of opportunity for ensuring children get a healthy start to life.
In March, our program Healthy Eating Research published the most comprehensive examination to date of factors that can increase a child’s risk for obesity early in life. It shows that women who weigh more before they get pregnant, gain excess weight during pregnancy, or use tobacco while pregnant, are more likely to have children who become overweight or obese.
There are a variety of factors beyond prenatal health that also influence a child’s weight. Children form their taste preferences early in life, which is why it’s so important to ensure that they have access to a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains―right when they begin eating solid foods. Play and physical activity are also essential for optimal development. And there’s no reason for young children to drink sugary drinks—milk and water are best. All of these habits, if learned in early childhood, can last a lifetime.
The good news is the country as a whole is making progress in helping more kids start life at a healthy weight: Obesity rates among kids ages 2 to 5 have gone down in recent years.
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Mar 9, 2016, 9:00 AM, Posted by
Tina Kauh, Victoria Brown
Healthy Eating Research expands its commitment to equity through a new funding opportunity that reserves awards for innovative studies focused on rural, American Indian and Asian/Pacific Islander populations.
The students at Native American Community Academy, a member of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program, believed their school should serve healthy lunches that incorporated foods indigenous to the Navajo culture. So, they set out to turn their idea into a reality.
The students had an ultimate goal in mind: convince their principal to hire a company that would provide these healthier, more traditional meals. But, first, they had to prove that this type of food service could be done.
They started with the basics. With a budget of no more than $2 per person, students headed to a local grocery store and purchased ingredients for a meal they would prepare on their own and serve to their teachers and administrators to demonstrate that offering healthy Native American food at school is both feasible and affordable.
Their menu for the day: vegetarian chili with beans, blue corn meal mush (a traditional Navajo dish), an organic fruit cup and a dish they called the “Beez Kneez,” which had squash, corn, green chili, garlic and onions. The meal received rave reviews. Not only did the principal agree to find a new food service company, she put the students in charge of the task.
This is just one of many stories that reinforce the important role schools play in teaching kids about nutrition and offering healthy meals, snacks and drinks. Among kids in underserved communities (like the students at Native American Community Academy), the role of schools is especially critical.
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