March 2018 Newsletter

Rudd Center Recent Publications

Youth Prefer Neutral Words from Health Professionals When Communicating About Weight, Study Shows

In response to high rates of obesity and weight stigma in youth, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that health care professionals use sensitive, non-stigmatizing language in communicating about weight with children and teens. For these efforts to be effective, there is a need to identify youth preferences for weight-based language because there has been little research in this area.

Now a study by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut provides a systematic assessment of the perspectives of adolescents (13 to 18 years old) about weight-based language used by health care providers. The findings show that adolescents did not want providers to use words like 'fat,' 'large,' or 'obese;' instead they preferred more neutral words like 'BMI' or 'weight problem.' Word preferences varied across gender, body mass index, and the extent to which adolescents internalized weight stigma.

"These findings underscore the importance of acknowledging different word preferences among youth with overweight or obesity. Using non-stigmatizing language is a tangible step that pediatric health professionals can take to promote positive, productive conversations about weight-related health concerns with youth and families," said Rebecca Puhl, Deputy Director of the Rudd Center, Professor of Human Development and Family Studies, and the study's lead author.

Mary Himmelstein, Rudd Center Postdoctoral Fellow, co-authored the study, which was published in Pediatric Obesity.

Improving the Nutritional Quality of Food Bank Inventories

Two specific strategies are helping the nation's food banks distribute less unhealthy food, according to a report released by MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. The report, A Tipping Point: Leveraging Opportunities to Improve the Nutritional Quality of Food Bank Inventory, is the latest action in a decade-long effort by MAZON to help the nation's food banks better meet the dietary needs of the low-income families they serve.

The two strategies recommended in the report are adopting a formal nutrition policy, preferably with a ban on the distribution of certain products, and implementing a nutrition tracking system.

"It is crucial that we continue to reduce the amount of unhealthy food in our nation's food bank system," said Abby J. Leibman, president and CEO of MAZON.

Marlene Schwartz, UConn Rudd Center Director, co-authored the report, which includes results of a survey of nearly 200 food banks across the country. The aim of the National Food Bank Survey was to assess how nutrition is being addressed by food banks, and the proportion of healthy versus unhealthy foods being distributed.

MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, based in Los Angeles, is a national advocacy organization working to end hunger among people of all faiths and backgrounds in the United States and Israel.

Millions of Children and Teens View Sports Programs Associated With Unhealthy Food and Beverage Sponsors

The majority of food and beverages marketed through expensive TV and online sports sponsorships are unhealthy - and may be contributing to the escalating obesity epidemic among youth in the United States, according to a study by the NYU School of Medicine's Department of Population Health and other academic institutions.

The researchers examined sports sponsorship agreements from 2006 to 2016 between food and beverage manufacturers and the sports organizations with the most youth viewers: National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Hockey League, National Basketball Association, FIFA, NCAA, Little League Baseball, and Ultimate Fighting Championship. The NFL led all organizations with 10 food and beverage sponsors, followed by the NHL, with seven, and Little League Baseball, with six.

"The U.S. is in the throes of a child and adolescent obesity epidemic, and these findings suggest that sports organizations and many of their sponsors are contributing, directly and indirectly, to it," said Marie Bragg, Assistant Professor of Population Health at NYU School of Medicine, and the study's lead author.

Jennifer Harris, UConn Rudd Center Director of Marketing Initiatives and Associate Professor in the Department of Allied Health Sciences, was among the co-authors of the study, published in the journal Pediatrics.

Rudd Center in the News

A March 2 op-ed piece written by UConn Rudd Center Marketing Initiatives Director Jennifer Harris for The Conversation - Will holding the cheese and chocolate milk on Happy Meals make a difference? - was published by more than 30 media outlets around the country, reaching a potential audience of more than 15 million. These outlets included the San Francisco Chronicle, Salon, the Lincoln (Nebraska) Journal Star, and the Arizona Daily Star/

UConn Today featured The Conversation article March 13.

Vox published a comprehensive piece March 28 about the study on sports sponsorships of food and beverages, citing our Center's Snack FACTS report. CNN and the Daily Mail were among about 60 media outlets that also carried articles on the sports sponsorship study.

The Deseret News (Utah) ran a March 19 op-ed article that cited our 2016 study showing the benefit of eating breakfast of school: Op Ed: Here's how to help hungry Utah students for National Breakfast Week

One Green Planet published a March 1 article that cited our 2016 study on TV ads for unhealthy foods viewed by children: Children Are Seeing More Ads for Junk Food - Here's What You Can Do To Help Your Kids

What's Simmering With Our Friends

Only Modest Improvements In Nutritional Quality Of Items Promoted in Fast-Food Restaurants

Despite small improvements, items pictured on general menu boards and featured on signs of four major fast-food chains remained at poor nutritional levels in 2013, compared to 2010, according to a study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study, led by Jackie Soo and published in Public Health Nutrition, examined the nutritional quality of menu items promoted in four fast-food chains: McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, and Taco Bell. Jennifer Harris, UConn Rudd Center Director of Marketing Initiatives, was a co-author.

The results of the study suggest that pictured items on the kids' section of menu boards showed the most consistent improvements for both foods and beverages. But overall the study findings "highlight that fast-food restaurants still have ample opportunity to market healthier foods and beverages at stores."

Law Schools Working Together Toward A Viable, Healthy, Environmentally Sound Farm Bill

A national partnership of law schools working toward a farm bill that reflects society's long-term needs has released a series of reports with recommendations that span the entire farm legislation and touch nearly every corner of the food system.

Members of the Farm Bill Law Enterprise include Harvard Law School, Duke University School of Law, Pace University Elisabeth Haub School of Law, UCLA School of Law, Vermont Law School, and Yale Law School.

As the group's website notes, "the farm bill grew out of Depression-era agricultural policies, and though it is regularly updated, many contend that contemporary farm bills fail 1) to provide adequate affordable and healthy food, 2) to sufficiently protect our environment, and 3) to meet the needs of low-income and minority communities."

News to Chew On

The Conversation/Medical Xpress
How stigma in the healthcare system is undermining efforts to reduce obesity
The Washington Post
Why we need to take fat-shaming out of fitness culture
Seattle Times
Beverage industry, allies start campaign to stop Seattle's soda tax from spreading
The Washington Post
Why the British soda tax might work better than any of the soda taxes that came before
Childhood Obesity in The U.S. Is Getting Worse, Study Finds, & Here's What Parents Need to Know
The New York Times
Spooked by Trump Proposals, Immigrants Abandon Public Nutrition Services
Food stamp proposal infuriates both left and right
Medical Xpress
Obesity risk doubles for teens bombarded with junk food adverts
The New York Times
American Adults Just Keep Getting Fatter