Research Offers Insight on Childhood Obesity and Paid Family Leave Policies

Findings are available in the July 2020 issue of Health Affairs.

Policy evaluations find positive impact of healthier school meal nutrition standards, but limited reach of San Francisco paid leave policy. Research on these and other topics are available in open access articles.

How the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act Impacts Obesity Trends

It has been ten years since Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA), which enacted updated, science-based nutritional standards affecting 50 million children eating lunch, breakfast and snacks in 99,000 schools nationwide. The evaluation found that HHFKA is associated with a significant decrease in the risk for obesity among children living in poverty. Specifically, by 2018, the obesity rate among such children was 47 percent lower than would have been expected had the healthier nutrition standards not been put into place. The authors of the new study estimate that this translates to over 500,000 fewer cases of obesity among children in poverty. The evaluation suggests that HHFKA is successful in reducing health disparities and should be kept in place to help children living in poverty grow up healthily. This evaluation was conducted by Erica L. Kenney, Jessica L. Barrett, Sara N. Bleich, Zachary J. Ward, Angie L. Cradock, and Steven L. Gortmaker.

San Francisco’s Paid Parental Leave Law Offering Full Pay: An Evaluation and Recommendation

Paid family leave policies bolster the health and well-being of new families and can help reduce health inequities. These policies, however, vary by place and in practice. A study examines San Francisco’s Paid Parental Leave Ordinance, which was the first law in the nation to guarantee full pay during parental leave. Researchers found that the law has had mixed results. On the one hand, the amount of parental leave taken by fathers increased by 13 percent. However, there was very little impact on maternal leave. One of the reasons may be that more than 98 percent of lower-income mothers, who were least likely to have paid leave through their employers, had received little or no accurate information about the complex citywide policy. The study suggests that simpler universal policies are needed as other cities across the nation consider expanding parental leave policies. The research was conducted by Julia M. Goodman, Holly Elser, and William H. Dow.

Other studies in the journal include:

The open access articles are distributed in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon this work, for commercial use, provided the original work is properly cited.

Media Contacts

Mary Ann Lombardo

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 609-627-6021

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