Special Issue Articles

Research contributions on childhood obesity from a public-private partnership

Cheryl L. PerryDeanna M. HoelscherHarold W. Kohl III

"Ongoing scientific updates of our understanding of the childhood obesity epidemic are important and urgent due to the rapid increase in the prevalence of obesity in both developed and developing countries during the last 30 to 40 years, despite countless initiatives to address childhood obesity,” said Cheryl Perry, Ph.D., lead author and regional dean at UTHealth School of Public Health Austin Regional Campus.

According to national data, approximately 32  percent of children ages 6 to 19 are overweight or obese in the United States; these rates are even higher in Texas. The Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living is a public-private partnership that was developed between The University of Texas School of Public Health and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation to address child health issues through research, service and education.  Download the article.

Time with friends and physical activity as mechanisms linking obesity and television viewing among youth

Elizabeth A. Vandewater, Seoung Eun Park, Emily T. Hébert, Hope M. Cummings

Watching television has typically been viewed as one of the  causes of obesity in children. However, according to UTHealth researchers, overweight or obese children may spend more time in front of the television because of social factors and friendship dynamics that lead them to spend less time with friends. The authors of this paper examined data from the Child Development Supplement to the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, which included information about the health, development and time use of 2,908 students ages 5 to 18. According to the study results, the more time children spent with friends, the more they engaged in physical activity, which in turn lowered rates of obesity.

“Efforts to reduce child obesity could benefit from careful attention to peer and friendship dynamics rather than simply focusing on time spent watching television,” said Elizabeth A. Vandewater, Ph.D. lead author and associate professor in the Department of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences at the School of Public Health. Download the article.

The association between state bans on soda only and adolescent substitution with other sugar-sweetened beverages: a cross-sectional study

Daniel R. Taber, Jamie F. Chriqui, Renee Vuillaume, Steven H. Kelder, Frank J. Chaloupka

Many states across the United States have banned the sale of soda in high schools and some schools have chosen to substitute soda with other sugar-sweetened beverages in vending machines. Daniel Taber, Ph.D., and co-authors examined how these policies that regulate the sale of sodas in high schools affect alternate sugary drink consumption, such as tea, coffee, energy and sports drinks. The researchers drew their data from the National Youth Physical Activity and Nutrition Study, conducted in 2010 with 10,887 participants. In schools and states that regulated vending machines and soda sales, there was no increase in alternate sugary drink consumption. However, states and schools that regulated either the sale of soda or the availability of vending machines, but not both, saw the highest increases in alternate sugary drinks consumption.

“Banning soda, but allowing sports drinks and coffee drinks in vending machines, just shifts sugary drink consumption from soda to the alternatives,” said Taber, lead author and assistant professor in the Department of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences at the School of Public Health.  Download the article.

Educational outcomes associated with childhood obesity in the United States: Cross-sectional results from the 2011–2012 National Survey of Children’s Health

Felicia R. Carey, Gopal K. Singh, H. Henry S. Brown, IIIAnna V. Wilkinson

Obese children are more likely to have school absences, school problems and lower school engagement than non-overweight children. This study provides evidence that obesity in children is associated with immediate poorer educational outcomes. Download the article.

School-level economic disadvantage and obesity in middle school children in central Texas, USA: a cross-sectional study

Andrew E. Springer, Linlin Li, Nalini Ranjit, Joanne Delk, Kajal Mehta, Steven H. Kelder

Students in economically disadvantaged schools were 1.7 to 2.4 times more likely to be obese, regardless of their individual family’s income. The causes of child obesity extend beyond the home, and schools are an important environmental influence, according to the study authors. Download the article.

Socioeconomic inequalities in children’s diet: the role of the home food environment

Nalini RanjitAnna V. Wilkinson, Leslie M. Lytle, Alexandra E. Evans, Debra Saxton, Deanna M. Hoelscher

In this study, the home food environment, including mealtime structure and availability of healthy or unhealthy foods, was able to account for the differences in children’s’ diet quality across socioeconomic and neighborhood factors. Making healthy foods more available, turning off the television during meals, and restricting unhealthy foods could lead to better diets and lower rates of child obesity among these at-risk populations. Download the article.

Increasing access to healthful foods: A qualitative study with residents of low-income communities

Alexandra Evans, Karen Banks, Rose Jennings, Eileen Nehme, Cori Nemec, Shreela Sharma, Aliya Hussaini, Amy Yaroch

The most important barriers influencing healthy food shopping behaviors are the prices of food, and lack of access and poor quality of the available healthy food. Conducting a needs-assessment in an area with inadequate access to healthy foods allows the community to offer potential solutions and provide direction for future planning. Solutions could include placing new supermarkets in these communities and developing farmers markets and community gardens. Download the article.

Measuring the bias, precision, accuracy, and validity of self-reported height and weight in assessing overweight and obesity status among adolescents using a surveillance system

Adriana Pérez, Kelley Pettee Gabriel, Eileen K. Nehme, Dorothy J. Mandell, Deanna M. Hoelscher

This study examined the differences between the self-reported and actual heights and weights of 24,221 eighth- and 11th-grade students in Texas using the School Physical Activity and Nutrition (SPAN) study data. When surveyed, teenage boys tended to overestimate their height and teenage girls tended to underestimate their weight. The analyses and correctional equations provided in the article provide child obesity researchers with tools to improve the reliability of self-reported data. Download the article.