November 2017 Newsletter

Rudd Center Recent Publications

Food Industry Making Progress to Reduce Ads to Kids, But Most Food Advertising to Children Remains Unhealthy

Children are viewing less food-related advertising, especially on children’s TV and the internet, since the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI) industry self-regulatory program was launched in 2007, according to a new study – FACTS 2017 – by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut. As part of the voluntary Initiative, major food and beverage companies pledged to shift the mix of foods advertised to children under 12 to encourage healthier dietary choices.

Yet children still see 10 to 11 food-related TV ads per day, promoting mostly unhealthy products including fast food, candy, sweet and salty snacks, and sugary drinks. Moreover, the majority of CFBAI companies have not responded to repeated calls from public health experts to further strengthen nutrition standards for products they identify as healthier dietary choices that can be advertised directly to children, expand the Initiative to cover children up to at least 14 years old, and expand the types of media covered by their pledges to include programming that children frequently view as well as all forms of marketing that appeal to children, such as mobile apps with branded games and YouTube videos.

The Ways that People Cope with Weight Stigma May Have Important Health Implications

A focus on positive coping strategies could help improve health for those stigmatized because of their weight

Considerable evidence has linked the experience of being teased or bullied because of weight to poor health. Yet few studies have explored how individuals cope with being mistreated because of their weight, or the role that coping responses to weight stigma may play in health outcomes.

The findings of a new study by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut show that coping responses to weight stigma help explain why experiencing weight stigma can affect negative or positive health outcomes.

Coping with weight stigma by engaging in healthy lifestyle behaviors (like exercise or eating healthy foods) was associated with better health, including greater self-esteem, better physical and psychological wellbeing, and less frequent depressive symptoms. Responding to weight stigma with negative emotions and maladaptive eating (such as starving, bingeing or purging) were linked with more depressive symptoms, lower self-esteem and worse physical and emotional health, according to the study.

Food Swamps Predict Obesity Rates Better Than Food Deserts

Food deserts or neighborhoods with limited access to affordable, nutritious food have been identified as one possible driver of the nation’s obesity epidemic. However, a new study by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut suggests that living in a food swamp – defined as a neighborhood where fast food and junk food outlets inundate healthy alternatives – is a stronger predictor of high obesity rates.

This new study is the first to compare food swamps to food deserts, and measure their association with obesity rates using national, county-level data. Importantly, the results show that food swamps are distinct from food deserts. This has policy implications for local communities interested in stemming rising obesity and promoting health equity.

“While food deserts are certainly a problem in our country, our results show that food swamps, which capture the balance of unhealthy to healthy food outlets, predict obesity rates more accurately than food deserts,” said Kristen Cooksey-Stowers, a Postdoctoral Fellow with the UConn Rudd Center, and lead author of the study.

American Academy of Pediatrics Calls For Improved Care, Advocacy to Address Weight Stigma

Being teased or bullied about weight is one of the most common reasons that youth are victimized, and these experiences have serious consequences for emotional and physical health. With high rates of overweight and obesity in America’s youth, millions are vulnerable to weight stigma and its harmful effects.

In response to this widespread problem, the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued its first policy statement on weight stigma. The academy’s policy, published Nov. 20 in Pediatrics, seeks to raise awareness about the negative effects of weight stigma on youth, and provides clinical practice and advocacy recommendations for health professionals to help reduce weight stigma in the medical setting and the broader community.

“This policy statement is a call to action to encourage pediatric professionals to address weight bias as part of their efforts to improve the quality of life for vulnerable youth and adolescents,” said Rebecca Puhl, an author of the policy statement. Puhl is Deputy Director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut, and Professor of Human Development and Family Studies.

Rudd Center in the News

The New York Times and Reuters featured the American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement on weight stigma Nov. 20, with comments by UConn Rudd Center Deputy Director Rebecca Puhl. NBC News distributed an interview with Dr. Puhl about the policy statement with affiliates around the country, including, for example, KSBY (California's Central Coast), WNYT (Albany, NY) and KOB4 (Albuquerque, NM). The UK's Daily Mail published a piece on the policy statement Nov. 24.

Dr. Puhl wrote a commentary piece for Medscape coinciding with the release of the AAP policy statement on weight stigma: Weight Stigma in Kids: The Hurt May Not Go Away (Medscape login needed). Medscape published its own news article Nov. 20 about the new policy statement: New Guidelines Released on Pediatric Obesity and Stigma.

Media Post - Marketing Daily highlighted our FACTS 2017 report in a Nov. 7 article: Progress Still Limited On Reducing Kids' Exposure To Ads For Unhealthy Foods. The piece included comments from Rudd Center Director of Marketing Initiatives Jennifer Harris, lead author of the report, recognizing industry actions to reduce advertising to children. “However, limitations in self-regulatory pledges allow companies to continue to advertise unhealthy products to children," Harris said. "Further, increased advertising by companies that do not participate in CFBAI has offset much of the reduction in advertising by CFBAI companies, and children continue to view thousands of TV ads per year for unhealthy food and drinks.”

Food Dive featured the findings of the FACTS 2017 report in a Nov. 16 piece: Report: Industry limited unhealthy food ads targeting kids, but more progress is needed.

UConn Today, HealthDay, and Prensa Hispana de Arizona, a Phoenix-based Spanish-language online newspaper, were among other outlets that carried articles on our new FACTS report.

The study on food swamps by Postdoctoral Fellow Kristen Cooksey-Stowers was highlighted in a Nov. 16 article in Blue Zones: NEWS: Food Swamps Contribute to Obesity More Than Food Deserts. The Boston Globe followed with a Nov. 21 piece that included a Q & A: How 'food swamps' make us fat.

UConn Today carried a Nov. 14 piece on the food swamps study: Food Swamps Predict Obesity Rates Better Than Food Deserts. And the study was featured in Health News Digest, Medical Xpress, and Science Blog.

Science Blog and UConn Today published an article Nov. 9 on Postdoctoral Fellow Mary Himmelstein's study on coping responses to weight stigma: How People Cope with Weight Stigma Affects Their Health.

The Huffington Post carried a Refinery29 article quoting Dr. Puhl on "consistently high levels of public support for legislation that would prohibit weight discrimination in the workplace." The piece was headlined: Weight Discrimination In The Workplace: The Troubling Lack Of Plus-Sized CEOs.

A Nov. 2 article in Refinery29 also included comments from Dr. Puhl: No, You Can't Tell If A Person is Healthy Just by Looking At Them.

A press release announcing the Nov. 14 launch of the Healthy Food Policy Project's website (featured below) was distributed by dozens of outlets: Healthy Food Policy Project Looks at Policies Across U.S., Showcases Innovative Initiatives.

What's Simmering With Our Friends

Healthy Food Policy Project Find Local Laws Promoting Access to Healthy Food

The Healthy Food Policy Project (website launched Nov. 14) identifies and elevates local laws that seek to promote access to healthy food, and also contribute to strong local economies, an improved environment, and health equity, with a focus on socially disadvantaged and marginalized groups. HFPP is a four-year collaboration of the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) at Vermont Law School, the Public Health Law Center (PHLC) at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, and the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut. The project is funded by the National Agricultural Library, Agricultural Research Service, and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Share This Healthy Food Donation List

The holiday season is fast approaching and many food drives are gearing up to support those in need. Consider sharing the Healthy Food Donation List (and letter of support) with members of the school community. Help spread the message about the importance of a healthy food donation. This tool was developed as a joint collaboration between members of the Connecticut Health Improvement Coalition, Chronic Disease Prevention Action Team.

News to Chew On

Fast Company
How Closing Grocery Stores Perpetuate Food Deserts Long After They’re Gone
Trump Administration Moves Ahead With Obama Menu-Label Law
The New York Times
She Took On Colombia's Soda Industry. Then She Was Silenced. (The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Many college students will be homeless, hungry and alone this Thanksgiving/Perspective