Weight of the Nation screening and discussion at UGA


Communication Strategies for Obesity Management, Obesity Initiative at UGA, University of Georgia

University of Georgia professors and students will meet next week to discuss weight and obesity.

They’re screening HBO’s Weight of the Nation at the Tate Theater at 6 p.m. and holding a discussion at 7 p.m.

The Georgia Public Health Training Center and National Association of Chronic Disease Directors are teaming up to present the documentary.

The film is available at http://theweightofthenation.hbo.com/

Obesity in the news – it’s a daily obsession


Communication Strategies for Obesity Management, Obesity Initiative at UGA, Obesity Studies

Our fat is killing us.

In the last week, we’ve learned it’s bad for sperm, it affects breast cancer recovery, it speeds up mental decline, and it changes our social lives.

Just today, I read stories about obesity in our pets and whether artificial light is partially to blame for our obesity.

Obesity is covered by news publications daily, and it’s not just hype. The CDC released new statistics this month that 1 in 5 Americans — and 1 in 3 children — are obese, which brings a host of health problems that total $2.4 billion in Georgia alone.

It’s a problem that cuts across all demographics in every state, and isn’t going away. It’s becoming a part of the state’s everyday conversation.

Obesity is now an obsession.

But maybe that’s not entirely negative. Sites such as Greatist.com are popping up to promote physical, emotional and mental health. As part of their work environment, the team exercises, eats healthy, and follows the tips they dish out on the site.

Now that’s a cool trend. Can we incorporate it into America’s mindset?

– Carolyn Crist is a health and medical journalism graduate student at the University of Georgia, focusing on the Obesity Initiative and what innovative professors and researchers are doing to address the nationwide problem. I’ll post cool links about national obesity from time to time, in addition to regular UGA and Georgia-related obesity posts.

UGA walking study seeks women ages 25-45


Obesity & Exercise, Obesity Initiative at UGA

The Body Composition and Metabolism Lab in the University of Georgia’s Department of Kinesiology is seeking women ages 25 to 45 for a supervised walking study.

The 9-week study will examine the behavioral changes that occur in response to a structured exercise program.  Participants will receive a free diet and body composition assessment as well as monetary compensation.

  • For more details, contact Dr. Michael Schmidt, who is part of the UGA Obesity Initiative’s Obesity & Exercise team, at uga.project.pace@gmail.com or 706-542-6872.


Obesity Initiative to DC legislative staff: It’s about our community


Obesity Initiative at UGA

Legislative staff members learned about UGA’s Obesity Initiative during a legislative retreat on campus.

They traveled from Washington, DC to take part in the retreat, and those on the health research track met in kinesiology professor Kevin McCully’s fitness center to hear about the UGA Exercise Vascular Biology Lab.

Check out photos that McCully posted on Facebook.

Cliff Baile, head of the Obesity Initiative, explained how the initiative started and what’s new for this semester. McCully introduced some of his students and disabled community members who have participated in his classes.

“I wanted them to see people, not just look and listen at a meeting,” McCully explained. From the initiative’s Obesity & Exercise team, professors Ellen Evans, Michael Schmidt, and Mary Ann Johnson attended the session.

“The interaction with students and participants was probably the best part,” McCully said. “Obesity is so prevalent among the disabled, so part of this is disability awareness and the issues surrounding disability wellness. For them, being overweight is amplified.”

Members of Hope Haven, a local nonprofit that provides services for individuals with developmental disabilities who reside in the Athens-Clarke and surrounding counties, also attended to show support.

“UGA is trying to work on partnerships for the initiative,” McCully said. “The idea is that this is not all faculty. This is community, and we’re a team. It’s a people thing.”


Invest in our food system to reduce obesity, say two UGA deans


Obesity Initiative at UGA

By J. Scott Angle and Linda Kirk Fox
University of Georgia

Data released this week shows Georgia’s obesity rate is improving, but 28 percent of the state’s citizens still weigh in as obese. Growing health problems and rising healthcare costs are straining both the physical and economic wellbeing of America.

Good health often begins with good nutrition, and good nutrition begins when you put a seed in the soil.

Improving our food system by investing in research to enhance nutrition, increase yield and evenly distribute fresh food would go a long way toward solving long-term, underlying health issues in America. Finding a more holistic cure to troubling health trends through prevention and nutrition is more economically and physically sustainable than slapping a Band-Aid on the problem, offering only short-term treatment of the symptoms.

Americans face two glaring related problems: obesity and inadequate healthcare. Both are especially prevalent in the South. While obesity cuts across all socioeconomic sectors, poverty in the South is likely a major factor. Many low-income areas are food deserts, large areas with limited access to healthy food.

If you don’t have the means to get to a market to buy fresh fruits and vegetables or the space to grow them yourself, it’s nearly impossible to maintain a healthy diet. If the only store you can walk to is long on supplies of snack foods, soda and sandwich meat, but short on whole grains, vegetables or lean cuts of meat, then your options are limited.

Education is a key component to solving this health crisis. Whether educating more healthcare workers in Georgia or delivering hands-on Extension health and nutrition education to local citizens, knowledge is power in the fight for a healthy life.

In a recent speech to the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, Microsoft founder Bill Gates made a stark statement that struck at the heart of the problem. He said: “The rising share of both state and federal budgets committed to healthcare, broadly defined, leaves very little room for flexibility (to fund education). The mathematics are quite brutal.”

While soaring healthcare costs are draining the funding pool, education is often an efficient path to avoiding expensive healthcare problems. Increasing investment in a system that addresses resulting health problems in our society without addressing the root cause of many of these problems – poor diet and lack of access to fresh food – is like building an expensive house on sandy soil.

Properly investing available funds in education and improved food systems can put Americans on solid footing and headed down a new road to better health.

(J. Scott Angle is dean and director of the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Linda Kirk Fox is dean of the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences.)

For more information or to view multimedia associated with this story, click here: http://georgiafaces.caes.uga.edu/?public=viewStory&pk_id=4515

Walking in the U.S. increased during past 5 years, CDC reports


Obesity & Exercise, Obesity Initiative at UGA

Adults are walking more than ever, but they need to keep it up, the CDC released in a report this month.

The percentage of adults who walk for at least 10 minutes at a time increased from 55.7 percent in 2005 to 62.0 percent in 2010, according to the report.

To keep the numbers up, communities should give access to place for physical activity or use land use policies that “emphasize mixed-use communities and pedestrian-friendly streets,” the report reads.

“The impact of these strategies on both walking and physical activity should be monitored systematically at the national, state, and local levels,” according to the Vital Signs report. “Public health efforts to promote walking as a way to meet physical activity guidelines can help improve the health of U.S. residents.”

Walking is the most commonly reported physical activity among U.S. adults overall, according to CDC statistics.

Other tips from the report:

  • Regular physical activity provides many health benefits; however, approximately half of all adults do not get the recommended amount of physical activity and about one third report no physical activity.
  • Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. Walkers are approximately three times more likely than non-walkers to meet this guideline.

UGA professor: Southern diet, quick meals connected to Georgia’s high obesity


Food Ingredients & Obesity, Obesity & Exercise, Obesity Initiative at UGA, Obesity Studies

As analysts begin to study the CDC’s recent release of obesity rankings, experts are discussing whether nutrition, exercise, or environment are to blame for the nation’s increasingly high rate of overweight adults and children.

Georgia Public Broadcasting turned to Mary Ann Johnson, one of UGA’s nutrition professors, for thoughts about the new statistics.

From the GPB story:

Mary Ann Johnson, a nutrition professor with the University of Georgia’s Obesity initiative, says they are concerned.

“65 percent of adults in Georgia are either overweight or obese, with about a third who are obese,” she says.

She says, “We’re concerned it could be the traditional southern diet. But it may just be our focus on quicker meals and really losing sight of where are the calories coming from in our food.”

CBS News also contacted Johnson to discuss First Lady Michelle Obama’s criticism of Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas “splurg[ing] on an Egg McMuffin at McDonald’s” after winning.

Mary Ann Johnson, a professor of Food and Nutrition at UGA, told CBS Atlanta that Douglas’ choice of McDonald’s meal was actually rather healthy.

“[The sandwich] was a good choice for an athlete who burns thousands of calories a day,” she noted. “She is also still growing as a young woman – she has a lot of high-calorie and high-protein needs.”

But Douglas stands as an important role model for children, Johnson told CBS.

“Someone like Gabby Douglas has the power to influence millions of Americans,” she said. “I’m excited to see her sharing her diet, and I’m hoping she really takes a lead on helping all Americans eat healthier.”

Also from the story:

In regards to helping guide all Americans toward better, overall healthier choices, both Johnson and Crawley felt that McDonald’s has taken strides away from its negative stereotype.

“McDonald’s is making a very good effort into providing healthier options,” Johnson said, adding that the company’s trend of providing calorie counts for its menu items is helpful. “People really just don’t know the calorie content of foods off the tops of their heads – this way, it’s up to the consumer to make informed food choices.”

Folate, obesity during pregnancy linked to childhood health


Maternal & Childhood Obesity, Obesity Initiative at UGA

You may already know that being overweight or obese puts you at greater risk for heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers, but obesity also affects us in ways that we don’t yet fully understand.

This recently became clear in my own research, which focuses on a B-vitamin called folic acid. Folic acid is necessary for all kinds of important functions in the body, but you may have heard of it in relation to birth defects. That’s because women who take enough folic acid before they become pregnant are much less likely to have children with severe, sometimes fatal birth defects like spina bifida and anencephaly.

I’ve spent the majority of my career working to improve maternal and child health by finding out how much folic acid women need to prevent birth defects, and making sure they know about it. But some recent studies suggest that what works for women of normal weight isn’t working for women who are overweight or obese, and I want to find out why.

Lynn Bailey is the department head and a professor of Foods & Nutrition in UGA’s College of Family and Consumer Sciences. She is the leader of the Obesity Initiative’s Maternal & Childhood Obesity team.

Check out this video that describes Bailey’s latest research and what the Maternal & Childhood Obesity team is doing to combat this serious problem.

Georgia ranks No. 24 in state obesity


Obesity Initiative at UGA, Obesity Policy

At least 1 in 5 people is obese in every U.S. state, the CDC reported, and Georgia falls near the middle in obesity rankings.

Georgia ranks No. 24 in a new report that says more than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7 percent) are obese, or 30 pounds over a healthy weight. The report, based on 2011 state obesity data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shows Georgia’s rate at 28 percent.

Mississippi has the highest obesity rate with 34.9 percent, and Colorado hits the bottom of the list at 20.7 percent.

In the annual study, participants self-report their height and weight in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey. Compared to 2010 numbers, Georgia dropped from 29 percent.

However, the survey changed from last year, now including people who only use cell phones and a new weighting process. CDC officials say that due to the changes, 2011 obesity numbers can’t be compared to previous years. the 2011 data will become the new baseline for future obesity rankings.

No state fell below 20 percent adult obesity, and 12 states (Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia) came in at 30 percent or more. The South had the highest prevalence of adult obesity (29.5 percent), followed by the Midwest (29 percent), the Northeast (25.3 percent) and the West (24.3 percent).


Check the CDC data for more information.



Start with childhood obesity, says Georgia public health commissioner


Maternal & Childhood Obesity, Obesity Initiative at UGA, Obesity Policy

Dr Brenda FitzgeraldGeorgia ranks second in the nation for childhood obesity at 21.3 percent and third in the nation for children who are overweight or obese at 37.3 percent, said Barbara Fitzgerald, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health and State Health Officer.

Fitzgerald visited the University of Georgia on July 31 to give an update on adult and child obesity in Georgia, and current local and state initiatives to address the epidemic.

The key is to focus on children in the schools, she said, describing the Georgia SHAPE program, which pulls in several of the state’s departments, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the Atlanta Brace Foundation, and the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation.

Georgia SHAPE measures students through FITNESSGRAM, a tool that evaluates five different parts of health-related fitness — aerobic capacity, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility and body composition. Parents and schools receive reports about individual, school, and state-level data to highlight areas of improvement.

Under a new initiative patterned after a program at Sope Creek Elementary in Marietta, students could participate in additional physical activity throughout the day.

The regular academic schedule is maintained and classroom time is not reduced, but students partake in 20-minute exercises in the morning as they arrive to school.

The big perk is the low cost of physical activity, Fitzgerald noted.

Fitzgerald supports regulations that provide 30 minutes of daily physical activity for every student, which schools could implement through structured recess, “Brain Breaks,” or curriculum-based physical activities.

She also discussed regulations that require physical education in the middle school setting, and the state will have more concrete data about Georgia’s 400 middle schools and their physical education programs after the first year of fitness testing is complete.

In addition, Fitzgerald plans to encourage schools to engage in join-use agreements with communities to open school grounds on weekends for afterschool play. These are especially important in low-income, inner-city and rural settings that may lack other recreation facilities, she noted.

  • Fitzgerald, a board-certified Obstetrician-Gynecologist and a Fellow in Anti-Aging Medicine, has practiced medicine for three decades. As Commissioner, Dr. Fitzgerald oversees various state public health programs including Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Maternal and Child Health, Infectious Disease and Immunization, Environmental Health, Epidemiology, Emergency Preparedness and Response, Emergency Medical Services, Pharmacy, Nursing, Volunteer Health Care, the Office of Health Equity, Vital Records and the State Public Health Laboratory. Dr. Fitzgerald also directs the state’s 18 public health districts and 159 county health departments. Prior to joining DPH, Dr. Fitzgerald held numerous leadership positions.