June 2016 Newsletter

Rudd Center Recent Publications

Teachers Say Improved Policies Needed to Address Weight-Based Bullying

A new study by the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut found that teachers and administrators recognize weight-related bullying and eating disorders as problems in their schools that warrant improved prevention and interventions at the policy level. "Overall, findings indicate substantial support for a number of policy actions to address both of these problems in the student population," Rebecca Puhl, the lead author and Deputy Director of our Center, said in the Journal of School Health article. In particular, 85 to 94 percent of educators supported policies to reduce weight-based bullying in the school curriculum, improve anti-bullying policies to protect students from weight-based victimization, and train school staff how to address weight-based bullying. "Given that educators and school personnel are involved in the day-to-day implementation of school-based policies, it will be important to continue to engage their participation in policy remedies that can improve the health and safety of their students," Dr. Puhl concluded.

Rudd Center in the News

The New York Times quoted Rudd Center Deputy Director Rebecca Puhl in a June 16 Well blog by staff writer Roni Caryn Rabin, "Parents Should Avoid Comments on a Child's Weight." Dr. Puhl's comments were included in similar stories by other media outlets, including Ireland's Sunday World and the French edition of Slate.

In a June 16 story announcing that Philadelphia became the first major U.S. city to adopt a tax on sweetened beverages, Rudd Center Director Marlene Schwartz told Bloomberg news that sugary drinks are in a class by themselves as unhealthy products. "They are uniquely associated with excess calories, and they're empty calories. Even a cookie might have some sort of nutrition in it, but there's really zero nutrition in sugary drinks." Several other media outlets carried the article.

Dr. Schwartz was quoted June 20 in a Philadelphia Newsworks (public radio) piece that examined the impact on potential health benefits from including artificially sweetened diet soda in the city's sugary drink tax. "The science on diet beverages is not as clear," she said. "That's been the problem."

MedPage Today featured Dr. Schwartz among food policy and nutrition experts in a piece answering frequently asked questions about sugary drink taxes: "Friday Feedback: Should Nation Be Sweet on a Soda Tax?"

A June 20 Progressive Grocer article cited our Center's Snack FACTS report, released last November, showing that children saw substantially more TV ads for unhealthy snack foods in the previous five years, despite companies' promises to market healthier products to kids.

What's Simmering With Our Friends 

Marie Bragg, a New York University Assistant Professor who studies food marketing, obesity and food policy, was the lead author on a study in Pediatrics showing that teen music stars in food and beverage commercials promoted mostly unhealthy products. These included high-calorie snack chips and chocolate, fast food, and sugary sodas. Bragg, who trained at the Rudd Center, was quoted on her findings in numerous media outlets, such as CNN and AP. She said it would be unrealistic to expect teens to eat only healthy foods or to expect music stars to endorse only healthy products. "Moderation" and "a better balance" of advertising would be ideal, Bragg told AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner.

Forum on Early Childhood Nutrition

The Rudd Center partnered with the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut, Inc. (CHDI) and the UConn Health Center for Public Health and Health Policy (CPHHP) to host an early childhood food policy forum at the Rudd Center on June 14. More than 55 state officials, health professionals, researchers, advocates, and early care and education providers participated in the forum, entitled "Aligning Policy with Research: Promoting Sound Nutrition in Early Childhood." Rudd Center Director Marlene Schwartz opened the forum and provided an overview of the Child and Adult Care Food Program, a federal program that supports nutritious meals for infants and children in child care. Rudd Center Economic Initiatives Director Tatiana Andreyeva presented preliminary findings on her research on meals served in Connecticut childcare centers. Ann Ferris, Professor Emerita and former Director of the UConn Health Center for Public Health and Health Policy, presented her research on obesity prevention and early childcare policies. After the research presentations, CHDI President and CEO Judith Meyers gave an overview of recommendations included in a recent policy brief: Ensuring Children Grow Up at a Healthy Weight: Policy Opportunities to Prevent Obesity. She then invited panelists to join her in a facilitated discussion, which was followed by breakout sessions in which forum participants discussed specific actions for improving the nutrition environment in early childhood.

News to Chew On

The New York Times – The Upshot
Soda Tax Passes in Philadelphia. Advocates Ask: Who’s Next?
The Huffington Post
FDA’s Sodium Targets A Step In The Right Direction
In treating obese patients, too often doctors can’t see past weight
The Courier (UK)
Can It – Health experts say children ‘bombarded’ by energy drink adverts
Co Exist
New Food Labeling Laws Could Stop Us Throwing Away Perfectly Good Eats