Posts Tagged ‘childhood obesity’

Farm Bill Provides Public Health Intervention Options

April 1st, 2014

farmbillThe passage of the Farm Bill  (the  Agricultural Act of 2014)  includes some changes and reforms to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps) and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program.  In Arizona, SNAP benefits help put healthy food on the table for more than one million people each month, with more than half of the benefits going to children and teens.

The new Farm Bill promotes healthier options by requiring SNAP retailers to provide healthy choices.  When fully implemented, any store that accepts SNAP must offer at least seven foods in each of the USDA’s four categories of staple foods.  The law also provides grant programs to encourage people that receive SNAP benefits to buy more fruits and vegetables, provide funding for loan programs for healthy food retailers, and create opportunities for schools to add different kinds of vegetables as part of school menus.

In terms of education funding for SNAP… we’ll be able to promote physical activity in addition to nutrition education. This is great news because the combination of healthier foods and physical activity are powerful tools in fighting the obesity epidemic.  And it fits so well with our Winnable Battle to promote nutrition and physical activity to reduce obesity.  Many studies show there’s a link between obesity and low-income families, so adding nutritional criteria to SNAP is a significant improvement on the status quo and a positive springboard for improving health outcomes moving forward.

Obesity Drops Among Preschoolers

March 5th, 2014

The latest CDC obesity data published in this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association found a significant decline in obesity among kids aged 2 to 5. Obesity prevalence for this age group declined by 43% in the last 8 years (from 14% in 2004 to 8% in 2012.  While the precise reasons for the decline in obesity aren’t clear, many child care centers have started to improve their nutrition and physical activity standards over the past few years (like our (EMPOWER Program).  In addition, CDCs data shows a decrease in consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among kids in recent years. Another possible factor might be the improvement in breastfeeding rates- which helps stave off obesity. 


Childhood Obesity Clinician Toolkit

November 27th, 2013

The Arizona Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics recently updated their collection of hands-on tools that can be easily integrated into clinical practice. The tools are designed to help clinicians to incorporate clinical evidence-based recommendations for obesity prevention, assessment, treatment and referral into their practice. They’ve included a document that can be folded to pocket-size identifying appropriate lab assessments, tips on motivational interviewing, and more. 

The kits provide best-practices that will reinforce the messaging during well care exams around: 1) eating 5 servings of fruit and veggies a day; 2) limiting screen time to 2 hours or less a day; 3) being active at least 1 hour a day; and 4) limiting sugar sweetened beverages to near 0 a day. The tools were created at the request of AzAAP members BY AzAAP members. They can be found at

Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, September 2013

September 5th, 2013

September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and is a great time for us to take stock of where we are in the “Winnable Battle” of combatting obesity. Last month, we got some good news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that obesity rates in children and adults are leveling off after decades of going up.

Now we’ve learned that we are also making progress in school policies to promote healthy eating and physical activity. CDC just released the 2012 School Health Policies and Practices Study which shows the amazing changes that have occurred in schools to help students be healthy and ready-to-learn. For example, the number of school districts that prohibit offering junk food in vending machines has increased from just 4.1% in 2000 to nearly half in 2012 (43.3%).

Even with these encouraging signs, there is still work to do. The childhood obesity epidemic puts nearly one third of America’s children at risk for Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease – conditions usually associated with adulthood. Even greater disparities exist among young Hispanics and children of color. There are opportunities  every day to change these trends and the results can last a lifetime. All children deserve a healthy start in life and it’s our responsibility to make that possible. Let’s use Childhood Obesity Month to renew our resolve and use this opportunity to build awareness and take action where we live, learn, work, play, and receive care throughout Arizona.

The Departments of Economic Security and Health Services are working together to raise awareness of childhood obesity . I invite you to view a similar blog piece by my agency counterpart, Director Clarence Carter.                                                            


Childhood Obesity: Turning the Tide?

August 15th, 2013

We finally got some better news from the childhood obesity public health front this week.  Tuesday’s CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found that childhood obesity rates are stabilizing or decreasing slightly across the country.  In fact, 19 states had a significant downward trend in obesity prevalence among low-income preschoolers.  There was no change in Arizona- but that’s better than going up.  The study looked at kids between 2 and 4 years old that participate in WIC, Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment program, and the Maternal and Child Health programs between 2008–2011 and found a downward trend in obesity- for the first time that I can remember in my career. 

Where do we go from here?  Basically, we need to continue to press ahead and implement evidence-based best practices – as turning the tide on childhood obesity will be a long term effort.  Here are a few AZ specific examples: 

  • We’ll continue to work with many county health departments on the implementation of the Health in Arizona Policy Initiative.  This initiative focuses on school health, worksite wellness, healthy community design, procurement of healthy foods (like having healthy alternatives in vending machines), preventive clinical care, and inclusion of children with special health care needs.
  • The CDC recently awarded us a new public health prevention grant.  Like the Health in Arizona Policy Initiative, the goal is to make healthy living easier by supporting healthy environments in workplaces, schools, early childhood education/child care, and in the community.  Arizona was one of 32 states to be awarded enhanced funding; in total, ADHS will receive $2M per year for five years.   Activities are expected to begin rolling out by October. 
  • State and local partners can continue to help communities to conduct needs assessments, Health Impact Assessments, action plans, and initiatives aimed at increasing healthy eating and active living by using tools like the Arizona Health in Policy and Practice Resources and the Urban Land Institute’s Community Plan, both of which help local officials to focus on a holistic approach to land use planning, zoning, transportation, economic development, real estate development and finance. 
  • We’ll continue to support School Health Advisory Councils which help schools to identify and incorporate best practices for obesity prevention including standards that promote healthy eating and physical activity, like focusing on serving fruits and vegetables, limiting sugary beverages, and providing more opportunities for physical activity, and reducing screen time- like our nationally-recognized Empower program does. 
  • Our public health system will continue to assist local businesses, communities, and local elected by educating them about the importance of and tools to provide opportunities for physical activity, healthy food availability, and improving access to safe, free drinking water in public places.  Maryvale on the Move is a good example of this kind of approach. 
  • We can also continue to help community groups improve access to local play spaces & increase opportunities for physical activity by helping decision-makers to provide easier access to safe recreational facilities by passing laws like ARS 33-1551   which addresses liability concerns of schools when opening outdoor facilities to the public outside of the school day- making it easier for schools to open playgrounds to the public so children have more places to play and be physically active.

Breastfeeding is Helping to Reduce Childhood Obesity

August 12th, 2013

Increasing the percentage of women that choose to breastfeed is a critical evidence-based practice for addressing the childhood obesity epidemic.  Here in Arizona, we have a lot to celebrate during World Breastfeeding Week- because of our collective work to increase breastfeeding is paying off.  Arizona’s percentage of babies who begin breastfeeding has jumped to 83% according to CDCs just released  Breastfeeding Report Card… and the percentage of babies exclusively breastfed until three months old has also climbed 10% in the last 5 years.   

This accomplishment demonstrates the power of working together to address the CDC – Winnable Battles including promoting nutrition and physical activity to reduce obesity. Here are just some of the places we work together to support breastfeeding families: 

  • Hospitals through Baby Steps for Breastfeeding Success;
  • Early childcare and education programs through Empower;
  • Arizona WIC Program through breastfeeding peer counseling, increasing the number of Lactation Consultants, and moving to participant-centered services for client counseling;
  • Home visiting programs for families through Strong Families AZ;
  • Community education with an online Baby Steps course- a self-assessment for childcare providers, and professional training;
  • Arizona’s early childhood home visitors support new mothers’ desire to breastfeed during home visits;
  • StrongFamiliesAz-  Arizona’s alliance of early childhood home visitors, provides technical assistance and education to home visitors so they can be supportive of new mothers; and
  • Arizona’s Breastfeeding Hot Line 1-800-833-4642 provides 24/7 support for breastfeeding moms. 

Congratulations to the Phoenix Indian Medical Center for achieving designation as a Baby-Friendly Hospital. They’re the first AZ hospital to achieve this prestigious certification- which shows their leadership in promoting breastfeeding to reduce childhood obesity.

Block Grants Improve Arizona’s Quality of Life

June 17th, 2013

You might have read something I wrote called, “Title This, Title That” where I wrote about Title V, Title XIX and Title XXI… three programs you hear quite a bit about because they provide funding to help us do our work.  The Title V program is the one that helps the work we do with maternal and child health prevention programs.  “Title V” is the shortcut way of talking about maternal and child health because it’s Title V of the Social Security Act.  Our Bureau of Women’s & Children’s Health and our Office of Children with Special Health Care Needs execute the Title V program in Arizona. 

Title V programs are a little different than the other funding.  We get the money through Block Grants.  Each state decides its own priorities based on the needs of that state.  In Arizona we choose our priorities by asking you what we need to improve in the next 5 years.  Not too long ago, we completed the process and set the priorities for maternal and child health including reducing teen pregnancy, reducing the rate of injuries in our state and reducing obesity.  You can read the whole list online, but there are many that overlap with our strategic map.  Setting priorities for the block grant is an ongoing process and we are working on the next block grant application right now.  We’d love to hear your comments.

Snack Time

February 12th, 2013

We’re one step closer to winning the battle of childhood obesity.  The USDA just released the new “Smart Snacks in School” proposal to provide national standards geared towards increasing healthy food options in vending machines and snack bars. As required by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, the USDA is striving to help improve the health and well-being of our children by creating nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools. 

The new proposed standards have been established using evidence-based research, existing standards currently implemented by schools, and healthy food and beverages already available in the marketplace.  The proposal identifies food allowances such as snacks with 200 calories or less, water, low-fat milk, plain or flavored fat-free milk, and 100% juice for middle and high schools.  The new proposed standards for healthier foods will impact all foods sold during the school day.  Kids will be able to purchase healthy meals, snacks, and beverages once the rules are final. The proposed rules will not apply to after-school hours, weekends, or off-campus fundraising events.

Workin’ Out

February 11th, 2013

Student participation in PE and sports has lots of benefits like improved social skills, confidence, general health, well-being and healthier weight.  According to the CDC rates for obesity among students with disabilities are 38% higher than for students without disabilities.  Students who have intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities and mobility limitations have the highest obesity rates. Ensuring that students with disabilities are afforded their right to participate in physical education and sports can be an effective strategy in making progress toward achieving our winnable battles.  

Last week, in a letter to school districts, the US Department of Education provided sample scenarios and guidance for increasing participation of students with disabilities in PE and extracurricular activities, including sports. The guidance includes examples of reasonable modifications which may help schools in providing physical activities for all students.  Under section 504, of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, students with disabilities are ensured access to educational and extracurricular activities available to other students; however sports opportunities have been limited.  For more information you may contact our Office for Children with Special Health Care Needs.


February 7th, 2013

Does when you eat make a difference in how much you weigh? A new study in the International Journal of Obesity indicates eating late may make it less likely you will lose weight as quickly. The five-month study was done in Spain and included 420 people in a weight loss program using the Mediterranean Diet. People in the study were grouped into early-eaters and late-eaters (lunch before/after 3pm). The late-lunch eaters lost less weight even though their calorie intake and other factors (like amount of sleep) were similar in the two groups. 

Does this mean you should eat your big meal earlier in the day? Maybe and maybe not.  Remember, the people in the study were in a supervised weight loss program and eating a diet rich in good-for-you fats (like olive oil) and with lots of fruits and vegetables. For you, a good place to start is taking a look at how much and when you eat along with how much physical activity you get each day. Try out the Choose MyPlateSupertracker. It’s a great tool to use to track your progress on eating healthy and moving more. You can switch up the size and timing of when you eat and see if being an “early-eater” makes a difference for you.