New public health professor takes on Obesity Policy team


Obesity Initiative at UGA, Obesity Policy

Neale Chumbler, the new department head of healthy policy and management in the College of Public Health, will step up to the plate as the team leader for the Obesity Initiative’s Obesity Policy team.

“We want to take the basic science that some researchers are doing on campus and translate it to practice and policymakers,” he said. “The idea with the initiative is to prevent chronic diseases, and obesity is linked to those.”

Chumbler also looks forward to hiring two professors in his college to join the obesity research and initiative.

“Obesity is a serious public health problem, and I think the initiative is a good fit for a relatively new department,” he said. “I think this is an opportunity for two new people to come and help move a great department to even greater strides.”

– Neale Chumbler hails from Indiana University School of Liberal Arts, where he was chair of the department of sociology, director of the Institute for Research on Social Issues, and a Regenstrief Institute Scientist at the Indiana University Center for Health Services and Outcomes Research. He was also associate director of the Indianapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Are pediatricians skipping blood pressure checks on kids?


Maternal & Childhood Obesity, Obesity in the News

Interesting story rounding the news today about a study recently published in Pediatrics.

From Reuters:

Using government survey data, researchers found that pediatricians failed to take kids’ blood pressure at about one-third of routine check-ups between 2000 and 2009.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute both recommend that children have yearly screenings for high blood pressure, starting at age 3.

From the American Council on Science and Health:

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco based their findings on data from two annual government surveys of doctors’ practices and emergency rooms, dating from 2000 to 2009. Led by medical student Daniel J. Shapiro, the researchers found that during routine check-ups, pediatricians were measuring children’s blood pressure only two-thirds of the time.

Furthermore, during all pediatric visits — including visits for an illness or injury — blood pressure was checked even less frequently: only one-third of the time. “If a child is ill, in pain, or crying, a doctor might not want to check blood pressure because it could be falsely elevated,” points out Dr. Margaret Riley, professor of family medicine at the University of Michigan, who was not involved in the study.


Obesity is community issue, requires policy changes, UGA professors say


Communication Strategies for Obesity Management, Obesity Policy, Obesity trends

Obesity is now so prevalent that it must be addressed as a social and political responsibility, not just an individual issue, three University of Georgia professors agree.

The professors were part of a panel discussion following a screening of part of HBO’s “Weight of the Nation” at the Tate Theater on Wednesday evening.

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

“It’s important not to blame the individual but to work as a community — all the places we live, work, and play — to support each other to find community-drive solutions,” said Marsha Davis, an associate professor of health promotion and behavior. “People in Athens live in food deserts, and we need to continue to assure that people have access and can afford fresh produce.”

Obesity has reached crisis levels, noted Karen Hilyard, an assistant professor of health promotion and behavior with experience in health communication.

“We need a wake-up call. I can’t believe we’re working on any other issue in public health right now because of its wide-reaching impact across all areas,” she said. “This problem fits the definition of a crisis, but why aren’t more people outraged?”

Unlike a natural disaster, obesity and its long-term risks are perceived differently, she explained. But we need to change the way we talk about obesity.

“We need to re-frame the issue from one of personal responsibility to one that’s a community issue. It affects not just our health but our economy, health care costs, and even national security,” Hilyard said. “We can’t expect to survive as a country if we have a crippled workforce that can’t handle physically demanding jobs. Policymakers must consider what obesity means for the future of our country.”

Ultimately, it starts with this generation, added Connie Crawley, a registered dietician and Cooperative Extension associate.

“As a young person in your 20s, you’re probably at your lowest weight for the rest of your life,” she said. “You’re in the prime situation to make decisions now that will influence your future weight and your future family.”

From the American Academy of Pediatrics Prevention Plus recommendations, Crawley listed several goals to reduce obesity in America:

  • Screen time: Remove screens (TV, video games, computers) from bedrooms and reduce viewing time to two hours per day.
  • Sugary drinks: Take them out of your diet! This includes 100% juice, energy drinks, and sports drinks.
  • Physical activity: Some sort of activity 60 minutes per day. It doesn’t have to be all at once or planned exercise.
  • Sleep: Newest on the block of recommendations, sleep helps your metabolism and reduces your chances of making poor decisions about eating and activity when tired. Plus, you’ll eat more and drink caffeine to stay awake.
  • Breakfast: Eat it. It increases your metabolism after fasting while you sleep. For children, however, we must ensure they are not eating breakfast both at home and at school.
  • Eating at home: Do this 5-6 days per week. Fewer Americans have decent cooking skills. But if we can educate children and adults how to make a few healthy, simple meals, it’ll make all the difference.

“Even if families or individuals select one to work on each year, they’d be a different person in six years,” Crawley said. “These key points will seriously impact your long-term health. You are as much at risk as the people in the film.”

The film is available at

UGA classes continue to help people with disabilities fight obesity


Functional Fitness, Disability & Environment, Obesity & Exercise

Check out this video from Grady Newsource posted on Monday.

Kevin McCully and his students are working each semester to help local people with disabilities to fight obesity and gain better movement.

His classes are particularly nice for showing the Obesity Initiative at work visually. This is one of a number of videos about his fitness class for individuals with disabilities, such as this one produced by James Hataway earlier this fall. I’m hoping to create a video about a dance class his students are holding for disabled students.

Will half of America be obese in 20 years?


Obesity in the News, Obesity trends

That’s what studies are showing. CDC stats in 2011 already showed 20.7 percent obesity in Colorado to 34.9 percent in Mississippi, so it’s probably not far off the mark.

Breaking news posted by the Associated Press, featured in the Athens Banner-Herald:

A new report forecasts a sharp rise in obesity in every American state over the next 20 years, though Georgia is projected to remain in the middle of the pack.

The research by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation estimates that if current trends continue, 13 states would have obesity rates higher than 60 percent by 2030; 39 states would have rates topping 50 percent; and every state would exceed 40 percent.

In Georgia, the analysis found that 53.9 percent of adults would be obese, up from 28 percent now. Mississippi would remain the fattest state, with two-thirds of adults being obese. Colorado would be thinnest at 44 percent.

The American Council on Science and Health looked at the report and also found a correlation between fruit/veggie consumption and physical activity with obesity, which makes sense:

Seven of the 10 states with the highest percentage of obese residents were in the bottom tier for fruit and vegetable consumption. In fact, Mississippi (34.9 percent), Louisiana (33.4 percent), and West Virginia (32.4 percent) topped the list for obesity — and yes, their residents also had the lowest fruit and vegetable consumption. In West Virginia, for example, only 7.9 percent of residents consumed the recommended servings of fruits and veggies.

The same goes for exercise. States where people reported engaging in the most physical activity beyond their regular jobs included Colorado, Utah, and California, and these states also have the lowest obesity rankings. Colorado, for instance, holds the top spot for (relatively) slimmest state, with only 21 percent of its residents reported as obese.

“Having an unhealthy lifestyle clearly increases the likelihood of being obese,” says ACSH’s Dr. Ruth Kava. “This report suggests that substituting fruits and vegetables for other items in one’s diet, combined with regular physical activity, could help prevent or combat obesity,” she noted.

“Of course it’s simplistic to say that only fruits and veggies correlate with obesity rates,” adds Dr. Ross. “Increased fruit and vegetable consumption might also correlate with increased education, income, etc. Clearly, multiple factors are involved.”

UGA budget cuts will reduce Obesity Initiative funding


Obesity Initiative at UGA, Obesity Policy

When budget cuts loom, new initiatives are often the first to take the hit.

From Athens Banner-Herald and Atlanta Journal-Constitution stories, UGA documents recently submitted to state officials show plans to eliminate 130 jobs to cut state budgets by 3 percent. The 3 percent cuts add up to about $11 million.

Most of the job cuts will fall in UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), which will eliminate 70 jobs, most of them in the Cooperative Extension service or at the university’s network of agricultural experiment stations.


But also for the Obesity Initiative –

From ABH:

Reduce start-up funding for new faculty to be hired in molecular medicine and the UGA Obesity Initiative by $1.5 million. The money is used for such purposes as buying new lab equipment.

UGA researchers seeking young ones for nutrition study


Maternal & Childhood Obesity, Obesity Initiative at UGA

The Maternal and Child Nutrition Research Lab of the Department of Foods and Nutrition is looking for 4 to 6 year old boys and girls to participate in body composition research.


  • We need boys and girls for one session that takes around 45 minutes
  • Sessions can be on a Saturday for your convenience
  • There will be a questionnaire about activity level and dietary habits
  • The child’s body composition will be measured by the BOD POD Body Composition system

Participants will receive a copy of their body composition results.

Please contact Christina Whitworth at 706-542-7611 for more information about this study.

UGA students use flash mob to talk about obesity


Communication Strategies for Obesity Management, Obesity Initiative at UGA

More than 200 University of Georgia students participated in a flash-mob workout on Herty Field to start the conversation about obesity in the state.

Professor Scott Shamp, director of the New Media Institute at the university, coordinated the event as part of the University’s Obesity Initiative started earlier this year. As a member of the initiative’s Persuasive Communication Strategies team, Shamp wanted to incorporate media and teaching people how to make healthy decisions about exercise and lifestyle.

Shamp sent a Twitter message to 250 students in his media class at 2 p.m. to meet for the workout, and the mob gathered 30 minutes later, where they followed fitness instructors from Workout Warriors LLC.

He also invited faculty and staff on the Persuasive Communication Strategies group to join by e-mail:

“I have a fun thing for you to see if you are interested. This semester in my 250 student lecture class (NMIX2020 Intro to New Media), the students are working on ways to use technology to help people make good health behavior decisions. All semester long we have been talking about obesity and ways to use tech to fight it … This should be a hoot! Come and workout with us if you want.”

Check out the video on the Athens Banner-Herald website.

NYC bans large sodas, need more to fight obesity links to cancer


Obesity in the News

Straight from the New York Times, we saw this one in the works:

Seeking to reduce runaway obesity rates, the New York City Board of Health on Thursday approved a ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, street carts and movie theaters, the first restriction of its kind in the country.

The measure, championed by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, is certain to intensify a growing national debate about soft drinks and obesity, and it could spur other cities to follow suit, even as many New Yorkers say they remain uneasy about the plan.

The plan bans the sale of sweetened drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces, which will take effect March 12 unless blocked by a judge.

Though not the only answer, banning drinks could be one step in the right direction.

We need many more to be effective in the fight against obesity and cancer, Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, wrote the New York Times from Atlanta on Sept. 7:

As a physician, I know that how we have become obese as a country is far more complex than more calories consumed than expended. Advertising and marketing, growing portion sizes, widespread availability of inexpensive, calorie-dense foods and an environment that does not facilitate physical activity all contribute to obesity.

Obesity is linked to at least half a dozen cancer types and is responsible for about one in six cancer deaths.

Cancer incidence and death rates are on the decline. The obesity epidemic, especially among children, threatens to turn back the clock on that progress. We must employ multiple strategies and bold action to keep us from losing ground.

UGA groups discuss fighting obesity on campus


Obesity Initiative at UGA, Obesity Policy, University of Georgia

Several University of Georgia groups met to discuss their current work with health and wellness matters on campus.

After each team presented, the committee agreed to form a new team under UGA’s Obesity Initiative, created earlier this year to address adult and childhood obesity in Georgia.

Those who presented:

  • Megan Ford, Aspire Clinic: Provides multiple areas of counseling, looking at obesity and health from a holistic perspective, particularly through nutrition education and counseling. Aspire acknowledges that “problems don’t exist in a vacuum,” and services are provided in an integrated and interdisciplinary approach.
  • Kathrine Ingerson, Food Services: Conducts wellness for dining halls on campus, including personalized menu guidance and the Eating Smart class. She also creates wellness brochures for the dining halls and weekly table tents. As part of the new Food Services website, students can track nutrition facts.
  • Liz Rachun, University Health Center: Employs “Healthy Dawg” campaign to tell students about the physical, intellectual, emotional, environmental, social, and spiritual ways to balance their lives. Healthy Dawg Ambassadors help to promote health center services, and Healthy Dawg workshops give students various ways to learn about health on campus.
  • Lori Duke, College of Pharmacy: Second and third-year pharmacy students earn practicum hours in Healthy Fit and Healthy Dawg programs, in which they treat patients with multiple health and medication needs. The goal is to expand services to UGA employees because “there are complex patients, and some people have serious health challenges on campus.”
  • Ellen Evans, College of Education: As part of a new service-learning initiative, the Dawgs WORK (Worksite Obesity Reduction Know-how) wants to tackle employee health on campus through personalized and sustainable practices. A focus group is starting this fall to launch the idea.
  • David Knauff, School Garden Resource Coordination: As part of a brand new idea, Knauff wants to connect resources around Athens to help with community garden programs. Oftentimes, teachers want to start a program but don’t have the support or Georgia Performance Standards to integrate it into the classroom regularly.
  • Mark Wilson, Workplace Health Group: Part of a long-standing conversation, Wilson wants to help incorporate an employee wellness program at UGA that would incorporate all faculty and staff in a University-wide model. Though the idea needs system-wide support at the Board of Regents level, Wilson is still looking for ways to showcase how the program can significantly reduce health costs for UGA.