Linking a Child’s Environment to Obesity

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]There is a global childhood obesity epidemic and researchers in the United States are working toward solutions, including prevention. Compared to adults, there has been relatively little research linking a child’s environment to their weight. This report, published in The Obesity Journal on August 23,2018, is a continuation of findings from the Neighborhood Impact on Kids (NIK) study and focuses on both physical activity and nutrition environments, two  factors that can affect a child’s weight. Behavioral factors were also considered, like daily energy intake and sedentary behavior.

A team of researchers gathered data twice over a two year span, in four types of different metropolitan neighborhoods in two large cities. They looked at several factors, like the age of the parents and the proximity of a quality park, then compared these data for each child to the child’s BMI. A favorable neighborhood in the study had a supermarket nearby with good nutrition and a quality park within walking distance of the child’s home. Less favorable neighborhoods had fast food easily accessible, no supermarkets nearby and nowhere for the children to play within a 1/2 mile. The findings looked at whether the neighborhood characteristics predicted the children outcomes going forward over the two years of the study.

The results of the study showed that children living in less favorable neighborhoods were 41% to 49% more likely to be overweight, and that these effects were found across two years. City planners and developers can use this evidence when designing neighborhoods that support healthy families.

Karen Glanz, PhD, MPH, a co-author on the study, noted “This study is unique and important in that it allowed us to make clear comparisons between ‘healthier’ and ‘less healthy’ food and activity environments over multiple years. The findings underscore how important environments can be in shaping behaviors and the health of children.”

Neighborhoods Impact on Kids (NIK) is an observational study, evaluating cross-sectional and longitudinal associations of neighborhood-level activity and nutrition environments with children’s weight status and obesity. The study is led by Dr. Brian Saelens, currently at Seattle Children’s Hospital.[/vc_column_text][vc_btn title=”Read the study” link=”||target:%20_blank|”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”2293″ img_size=”full” onclick=”img_link_large” css=”.vc_custom_1536245556069{border-radius: 2px !important;}”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Tobacco Taxes Help Tackle Smoking Addiction: Cheryl Bettigole, MD

bettigole-headshot-resizeIn a recent Philadelphia Inquirer Commentary,  Cheryl Bettigole, MD, UPenn PRC Community Advisory Board member and Director of the Division of Chronic Disease Prevention at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, advocates broadening the tobacco tax increase adopted by the Pennsylvania legislature last summer.

The tax increase was applied only to cigarettes, e-cigarettes, roll-your-own and smokeless tobacco.  Bettigole advocates including cigars and cigarillos.

“More than 10 percent of high school boys now smoke cigars and the failure to tax these products is likely to make them disproportionately cheap and hence more attractive to teens. Like e-cigarettes, cigarillos come in a multitude of flavors that seem designed to draw kids in, and are often displayed in Philadelphia’s neighborhood stores next to displays of candy and gum.”

Flavored tobacco products are a particular draw to young people.  According to Bettigole,  seven out of ten teens who start smoking begin with a flavored tobacco product.  Bettigole notes, “More than 90 percent of smokers start as teens and that addiction, once begun, can be impossible to break.”


One Year After Disneyland: Buttenheim & Asch on Leveraging Behavioral Insights to Promote Vaccine Acceptance


In a JAMA Pediatrics Viewpoint, UPenn PRC Researchers Alison Buttenheim, PhD, and David Asch, MD, look at the 2014 Disney measles outbreak and what it showed about the effect of vaccination refusal on disease risk. Since the outbreak, parents continue to skip vaccinating their children, affecting “everyone by weakening the herd immunity conferred by widespread vaccination,” according to the authors.

Buttenheim and Asch identify interventions which might make the reasons for vaccinating more salient to parents and health behavior theories which recognize the complex ways people make decisions about their children’s well-being. “There is so much more known today than 2 decades ago about not just the errors in people’s judgment, but how predictable those errors are and therefore how well they can be anticipated. This knowledge should be used to promote health for individuals and populations.”