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Tagged with obesity

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Can ‘veggie prescriptions’ really make people healthier?

When it comes to the health of the nation, asparagus no expense.

With all the talk of taxing and banning the foods (and sodas) that are bad for us, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that doing the opposite can work, too. In fact, subsidies for healthy foods can be very effective at changing eating habits. And we’re learning even more about how well this approach can work from an innovative program designed by the nonprofit Wholesome Wave called Fruit and Vegetable Rx.

As the name might suggest, the program provides low-income people who don't have much access to healthy food a doctor’s “prescription” plus vouchers that can be used to buy fresh fruit and vegetables. Jane Black reports for the Washington Post on Washington, D.C.’s pilot project version of the program run by local nonprofits in conjunction with a health clinic:

On June 6, the clinic began writing “fruit and vegetable prescriptions” to help cover the cost of fresh produce. Thirty-five families will receive vouchers for $1 per family member per day -- $112 every four weeks for a family of four -- to spend at any of five District farmers markets ... The hope is that a medical endorsement of healthful eating, plus cash to buy ingredients, will help families make real changes to the way they shop and eat.

Early data suggests that such programs do exactly that. There’s also anecdotal evidence that these kinds of programs can lead to healthier lifestyles overall:

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Beverage industry to NYC: Ignore the mayor. Soda’s totally cool

Well, that didn't take long. Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced yesterday that NYC would be banning sugary drinks if they came in containers bigger than 16 ounces. And today, the American Beverage Association is pushing back with an ad that says, basically, "Do not believe that science over there! Believe this science that says soda is tooootally fine for you."

Click to embiggen.
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HBO’s ‘Weight of the Nation’ should have taken focus on food system change further

Editor's note: For another perspective on this series, see this post.

The Weight of the Nation -- a four-part mini-series that ran this week on HBO (and online) -- has received a lot of attention. Produced in coordination with several federal government agencies and paired with a major national conference, the show has been heralded as “groundbreaking” and “bold.” But it’s really just the same old story.

The Weight of the Nation trailer alone smacks of tired stereotypes, but colleagues implored me to watch the entire series, so I did. And it was even worse than I feared.

I’m all in favor of bringing more attention to the nation’s diet-related health crisis. But the HBO series distracts us with the usual scare tactics, dances around the hard political issues, and leaves the viewer with the misguided impression that if we all just worked harder in our own communities, we could fix this mess.

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‘Weight of the Nation’ takes a realistic look at a looming crisis

HBO has a history of tackling serious American health-care crises. In recent years, the cable network has taken on addiction and Alzheimer's to much critical acclaim. And now the network has turned its attention to another huge health problem: obesity and its enormous economic, emotional, social, and health cost on individuals, families, communities, and the country at large.

As Americans have gained weight in recent years, rates of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and other obesity-related health problems have also skyrocketed. Rates of Type 2 diabetes (once known as “adult-onset diabetes”) are soaring among kids. And this is a generation of people that may well die at a younger age than their parents, largely because of medical concerns associated with excess weight.

These facts have become commonplace to those of us who have been paying attention. Still, The Weight of the Nation: Confronting America's Obesity Epidemic serves as a clarion call to the country to take action -- and fast -- to combat this pernicious, complex problem that has myriad root causes.

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Is the ‘obesity lobby’ winning?

A screenshot from the Reuters video report, Food Fight: How the Food Industry outsmarted Washington (click to watch).

The War on Obesity sure was fun while it lasted. There was school lunch reform, Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign, the administration’s Task Force on Obesity report, and an attempt by the administration to restrict junk food advertising to kids. But, as Reuters details in this fantastic deep-dive, the food industry came back with shock and awe, K-Street style:

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Car-centric neighborhoods linked to childhood obesity, finger-wagging

Photo by Jym Ferrier.

It should come as no surprise that children who live in neighborhoods that aren't walkable, lack playgrounds, and are full of fast food joints are twice as likely to be obese as kids in pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods with access to healthy foods.

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More evidence that grocery stores alone won’t solve the obesity crisis

Photo by Amanda Tipton.

Last week, I wrote a post debunking the myth that the presence of Walmart and big box stores like it makes communities healthier. As I observed, this is a problem since working with such large corporations is key to the Obama administration’s plan to address the obesity epidemic. And now a new study has come along that makes the whole concept of using supermarkets of any size to combat food deserts and improve the diets of low-income Americans appear doomed to fail.

Published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, and performed by RAND researchers, the study looked at self-reported and parent-reported eating habits and body mass index (BMI) among kids in California and then compared it to the proximity of supermarkets, fast food restaurants, and convenience stores. Distressingly, it found “no robust relationship between food environment and consumption.”

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Sick of the suburbs: How badly designed communities trash our health

Richard Jackson, from the PBS miniseries, Designing Healthy Communities.

This story is excerpted from a longer piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Researchers can have revelatory moments in remarkable places -- the African savannah, an ancient library, or the ruins of a lost civilization. But Richard J. Jackson’s epiphany occurred in 1999 in a banal American landscape: a dismal stretch of the car-choked Buford Highway, near the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.

Jackson, who was then the head of the National Center for Environmental Health at the CDC, was rushing to get to a meeting where leading epidemiologists would discuss the major health threats of the 21st century. On the side of the road he saw an elderly woman walking, bent with a load of shopping bags. It was a blisteringly hot day, and there was little hope that she would find public transportation. 

At that moment, Jackson says, “I realized that the major threat was how we had built America.”

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Pepsi spends $3 million a year so laws don’t come between corn syrup and your kids

Ironically-named food hero Marion Nestle just calculated that PepsiCo, which pumps enough high fructose corn syrup into the American public to turn out one Ghostbusters-size Stay Puft marshmallow man every 18 hours (I made that up; you get the idea), spends $3 million a year lobbying Congress. So what is Pepsi doing dumping all that loot on 1-percenters who supposedly represent the American public on Capital Hill? One motivation, according to the Sunlight Foundation, is the company's effort to stop the government's Interagency Working Group from proposing guidelines on food marketing aimed at kids. As Nestle explains (emphasis mine): As …

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The Big Apple takes a bite out of childhood obesity

New York City appears to have won a skirmish in its war on childhood obesity. According to a new report out from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), between 2006 and 2011, the obesity rate among children ages 5-14 in New York City dropped by over 5 percent. Obesity is, of course, not so much an ill in itself as a cause of major health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and even some kinds of cancers -- diseases from which kids are by no means immune. And it's also worth remembering that obesity is not the same as being overweight. …

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