A Systematic Review of Nutrition Policies in Schools

School administrators and public health officials are important players in the choices our children make during meals at school. This evidence review of environmental and policy strategies to improve school nutrition from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) helps decision-makers find the right program to achieve healthy outcomes in their schools. UPenn PRC Director and George A. Weiss University Professor, Karen Glanz, PhD, MPH worked with colleagues from the Community Preventive Services Task Force (known as the “Community Guide”), to conduct systematic reviews of the evidence about four types of interventions, evaluating their effectiveness in promoting healthy dietary behaviors and weight.

 

The first review assessed the availability of healthy foods and beverages for lunch or snacks at school. The second examined the healthy options sold or offered in schools, such as at fundraisers, in vending machines, and at snack bars. The third review looked at a combination of the strategies examined in the first two reviews, and the fourth evaluated the access to safe, free drinking water in schools.

 

Studies were included in the review if the primary setting was in schools, programs or policies were aimed at obesity prevention or healthy weight promotion to the general student population, took place in kindergarten through high school, and reported a dietary or weight-related outcome estimated to be at least six months after the intervention program or policy began.

 

After filtering through over 27,000 studies, reviewers identified 54 studies that matched the criteria. Among these studies, they found evidence of effectiveness for preventing or maintaining healthy weight status with two intervention approaches:  improving the availability of healthy food and beverages for lunch or snacks at school, and multicomponent interventions including healthier meals and snacks.

 

Read more about the data extraction, the outcomes of interest, and the evidence of effectiveness in the full article, published by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, July 2020 issue.


 

 

 

 

Wethington H, Finnie R, Buchanan L, Okasako-Schmucker D, Mercer S, Merlo C, Wang Y, Pratt C, Ochiai E, Glanz K, the Community Preventive Services Task Force. Healthier Food and Beverage Interventions in Schools: Four Community Guide Systematic Reviews. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, July 2020; 59(1): e15-e26.

 

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=”url:https%3A%2F%2Fdoi.org%2F10.1002%2Foby.22247||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]

Coming in April!!! PRC Symposium: Accelerating Policies & Research on Food Access, Diet, and Obesity Prevention

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Friday, April 28th, the University of Pennsylvania Prevention Research Center is hosting a symposium: “Accelerating Policies & Research on Food Access, Diet, and Obesity Prevention.” This one-day interdisciplinary event highlights the most current research on food access, diet, and obesity.  Distinguished scholars and leaders in the fields of public health and nutrition will focus on bridging the gap between research and practice. For more information and to register, go to:  https://upennprcsymposium.splashthat.com/

 

 

Healthy Foods Take a Back Seat to Junk Food When It Comes to Marketing: PRC Director Karen Glanz on Knowledge@Wharton

UPenn PRC Director Karen Glanz, PhD, MPH, was interviewed with Penn Professor Jason Riis by Dan Loney on Knowledge@Wharton about how major brand marketing favors junk food over healthy food options in the consumer marketplace.  “Food production companies are in the business of making profit, not making healthier food,” Glanz noted, adding that short-term corporate expectations based on quarterly earnings hinder a long-term strategy to build consumer relationships with healthier food choices.

“Do they market healthy foods as heavily as unhealthy foods? Do healthy foods get the same bells and whistles and kid-friendly appeals as the bad stuff?” Glanz questioned, adding that the build-up of consumer dependence on salt, sugar, and fat has taken place over many years, a result of research and marketing that targets those taste cravings in consumers.

Glanz observed there has been more success in the promotion of low and zero calorie drinks and bottled water. “The beverage market is interesting and has a different trajectory than the food and snack market,” says Glanz. “Calorie-free drinks are well-established.  They sell less but sell well.”

Glanz also gave a nod to former First Lady Michelle Obama’s healthy eating and Let’s Move initiatives. “The First Lady’s signature programs have been a catalyst for promoting health. They’re two sides of the same issue.”