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.




UGA nutrition student: Website weight loss works


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

Weight management interventions can work online, one University of Georgia student reported.

During presentations this fall, students in nutrition professor Mary Ann Johnson’s class are talking about effective strategies related to reducing obesity.

Courtney Still, a doctoral student of nutrition, spoke about the “effects of web-based lifestyle modification programs on weight loss.”

Because weight loss programs tend to be expensive and take up time, Still wanted to investigate whether online-only or hybrid web/in-person programs would work.

“There’s often a lack of time, training and expertise for some people,” she said. “With the web, you don’t have to worry as much about expense, scheduling and personnel.”

Still spoke about several case studies but found that web use generally aided weight loss, even if in small amounts.

“There are still limitations because in some studies, dietary intake was not measured and these results were only short-term weight loss,” Still said. “This this may be an excellent way to provide service if online programs included personalized information and increased intensity over time to help with long-term weight loss.”


  • Courtney Still earned a bachelor’s in dietetics and consumer foods at the University of Georgia in 2010 and a master’s in foods and nutrition in 2012. Her research includes nutrition education, community intervention, and childhood obesity. Other interests include public health and epidemiology.


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

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 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 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:

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.