Saturday, January 30, 2010

Slimming Down School Milk: Did it have an impact?

Schools are getting smart and thinking more about where kids are getting their calories from in school. With childhood obesity continuing to rise (even though adult obesity seems to have slowed down), the implementation of sound school wellness policies is imperative to curbing unhealthy habit forming behaviors in kids' lives.

There is not a ton of data on how school nutrition policies have impacted student health or changed children's consumption of certain foods. (Though if you're interested, I've done a ton of research in this area on sugar-sweetened beverages). But now we have data on one common policy: switching school cafeterias over to serving kids lower-fat milk (1% or fat-free).

Friday, January 29, 2010

Update: MA School Nutrition Bill

It took a little investigating (and some decoding) to figure it out: the School Nutrition Bill passed the House!

Thanks for calling and/or writing your Legislators. It does make a difference. I know there was a lot of movement on the ground Thursday morning among advocates for school wellness and nutrition policy even though I couldn't join them.

You can access the legislative history of the newly numbered bill (HB 4441) at the Massachusetts website. Each Amendment was adopted in turn, with a few hiccups (i.e. "referred to House Rules" and "Rules Suspended") along the way.

Need a little more information about what took place yesterday?? ...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Contact Your MA Legislator for School Nutrition!

Tomorrow may be a historic day for school nutrition in Massachusetts!

This Thursday, the Massachusetts House plans to vote on House Bill 4438 (previously HB 2092), also known as the School Nutrition Bill. This would be a milestone in Massachusetts school nutrition history, as no previous bill has set standards for the types and quality of food sold in school besides the VERY minimal federal regulations.

If you want our schools to be healthier places for our kids, then contact your legislator by TOMORROW!

You can find out more about the School Nutrition Bill and the Local Farm Products Bill (HB 2017), which will *hopefully* also be incorporated in the final document, at the Massachusetts Public Health Association website.

To find out who your State Representative is and how to contact them click here.

This is what I wrote to my Representative...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Fav Five Public Health Headlines

From Haiti to Brooklyn, this week's Fav Five highlights promising strategies to improve kids' health, the  fate of national health care reform, and the public health and medical response to the Haiti disaster.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Health Care Reform Revisited: Brown Defeats Coakley

In yesterday's Senate race Scott Brown (Rep) soundly defeated Martha Coakley (Dem) by 5 percentage points, according to today's headlines in the Boston Globe. While Coakley proved she is knowledgeable and articulate during the debates it seems that voters' took issue with health care reform and probably a number of other issues related to the economy, taxes, and national security.

What I think this election came down to was Massachusetts' voters deciding to mark their ballot for the candidate that best represented their own interests. A likely case for voters in every region of America.

But when it comes to heath care reform, MA is in an interesting predicament.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Altering Our Salt Obsession: A New York City Initiative

Salt is a hot topic in health right now. For more than a decade Americans have been consuming nearly twice the recommended amount of salt in their foods, mostly due to eating out more and the increased consumption of heavily processed, heavily salted foods.

Nutritionists and doctors have been concerned about individuals' excess consumption of salt (or sodium), particularly among those with high blood pressure. The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends a maximum of 2,300 mg of sodium/day (only about 1 tsp of salt), and even less for those with high-blood pressure. But many Americans consume closer to 3 tsp of salt each day.

Eating too much salt has been shown to raise blood pressure and increase a person's risk of suffering from heart disease or stroke. That's why if you or someone you know has been diagnosed with high blood pressure, your doctor has likely advised you to cut back on your salt intake and switch to low- or no-sodium products so that you can add your own salt to taste.

This week public health professionals and politicians stirred interest in salt -- particularly the abundant use of salt and salt-laden products by restaurants, especially fast food restaurants. The New York Times reported on January 11 of Mayor Bloomberg's plan to support the reduction of salt in packaged and restaurant foods by 25% over the next 5 years.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Have American Waistlines Stopped Growing?

Pam Belluck of the New York Times reported today that obesity rates have been seen to stabilize (for some groups like blacks and whites, but not Mexican-Americans) over the past 5 years. I've heard this data in several classes, and it does appear to be true. But this shouldn't be taken to mean that obesity rates are declining -- they certainly are not.

What puzzles me and other obesity researchers is: Why?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Leisure Time in Bavaria -- Germany, that is.

Snow capped mountains and miles of farmland lined the streets and highways on my way through the Bavarian Alps last week. I was on a vacation with my family in southern Germany where we spent a few days in Stuttgart and a few more in Garmisch with family who have lived there for the past six years.

What struck me most during my days was not least the cold but that despite the cold if you walked anywhere you saw at least a dozen Germans walking outside, as well.