Childhood obesity survey finds creative solutions

by H. Roger Segelken

(Medical Xpress)—Ask public officials, as Cornell social scientists did: What's to be done about childhood obesity? Creative solutions, as it turns out, outnumber lame excuses.

"We heard relatively few buck-passing, shoulder shrugging, finger-pointing responses," says researcher Rebecca S. Robbins, a Ph.D. candidate in the field of communication in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. "While some of these solutions were in the realm of the hypothetical, many suggestions revealed out-of-the-box thinking about the issue."

"My favorite is a healthful alternative to classroom birthday binges," adds Robbins, co-author of "Views of City, County and State Policymakers about Childhood Obesity in New York State," published late last year in the online journal Preventing Chronic Disease: Public Health Research, Practice and Policy.

Leading up to the what-to-do question – for 48 elected and appointed officials within a two-hour drive of Ithaca – were three head-scratchers that could easily have prompted shoulder shrugs: Where does childhood obesity fall among other policymaker priorities? What do policymakers see as the causes of the rise in childhood obesity over time? And, whom do policymakers see as responsible for addressing childhood obesity?

Regarding priorities, the occasional mayor had other concerns, with one telling the researchers: "As far as my position as mayor, when I'm working with city issues [childhood obesity] is very low." At the same time, other state legislators thought about childhood obesity as something that could set up lifelong struggles, worrying about "the potential for these children to become productive members of the workforce and help us solve these problems down the road."

As for causes, parents were seen as bearing primary responsibility, officials told the researchers, but others pointed toward the offspring: "Kids are staying in and playing video games instead of going outside and playing," one county executive said. "Instead of walking over to see a friend, [children] just text them."

Many officials described the food industry, schools and the federal government as sharing responsibility for childhood obesity. At the same time, some were skeptical about broader involvement. For example, one state official got a little more specific, saying: "We've got physicians who are fat, so how can they tell somebody to lose weight, right?"

By then, the researchers (Jeff Niederdeppe, assistant professor of communication; Jamie Meyerson '11, a development sociology student during the survey; and Helen Lundell, vice president of the Seattle-based Hartman Group) were ready for some good news.

"I'd love to see something in place for schools, like a club for the overweight, or free clinics where individuals are not forced to join," suggested a county executive. A state lawmaker proposed legislation "in connection with whether or not soft drinks should be in vending machines in school districts."

From one county official, they heard the healthful alternative to classroom birthday binges: "Rather than the parent bringing in cake and cupcakes and ice cream and all of that, on the day the child's birthday is celebrated they get an extra recess to play … to promote that activity … rather than associating a celebration always with food."

The Cornell researchers decided to conduct the study based on changes in physical, social, economic, information and policy environments during the past 30 years that have contributed to large increases in childhood obesity rates in the United States. "No single solution will be sufficient to offset these trends," they concluded. "Large reductions in rates require action from multiple stakeholders, and public policy action is essential."

More information: "Views of city, county, and state policy makers about childhood obesity in New York State, 2010-2011." Robbins R, Niederdeppe J, Lundell H, Meyerson J. Prev Chronic Dis. 2013 Nov 21;10:E195. DOI: 10.5888/pcd10.130164.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Community-based programs may help prevent childhood obesity

Jun 17, 2013

When it comes to confronting childhood obesity, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health conclude that community-based approaches are important. A systematic review of childhood obesity prevention ...

Recommended for you

Divorce fuels sugary beverage consumption, study finds

22 hours ago

Children of recently separated or divorced families are likelier to drink sugar-sweetened beverages than children in families where the parents are married, putting them at higher risk for obesity later in life, according ...

People watching tearjerkers eat 28-55% more

Mar 02, 2015

Sad movies are bad news for diets. A newly reported study from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab showed movie-goers watching tearjerkers ate between 28% and 55% more popcorn both in the lab and in a mall theater ...

Abdominal obesity ups risk of hip fracture

Feb 27, 2015

(HealthDay)—Abdominal obesity is associated with increased risk of hip fracture, according to a study published in the March issue of the Journal of Internal Medicine.

Does traffic noise increase the risk of obesity?

Feb 27, 2015

There is an association between road traffic noise and the risk of obesity among people who are particularly sensitive to noise, according to a study from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Lex Talonis
not rated yet Apr 22, 2014
Because Americans are NEUROTIC.

They are STUPID.


And they are LAZY.


And here they are saying "If we patch up the cracks (the fucked up kids), we won't have to worry about the broken dam wall (the idiot adults and all their bullshit).

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.