Morning of Day 2 of APHA

Day 2 was hectic and awesome.  And there’s so much to share that I’m going to split it up to keep you from killing me.  Here’s my morning schedule and summaries of what I learned: (See Day 1 here)

6:26am – Wake up and go work out (gotta walk the walk, right??)

8:30am - Changing Food Environments: What do we need to know to promote community health?

Capturing what’s missing: A comprehensive protocol to monitor changes in the food and physical activity environment for studying their impact on childhood obesity, Michelle Kennedy

This study is trying to develop a protocol to better capture what’s going on in a food and physical activity environment that doesn’t rely solely on publicly available data in existing databases that might miss key information.  For example, Kennedy shared that a local YMCA implemented programming in a local park so that kids could play there without fear of crime.  In another community, a school built a fantastic new playground.  This might show up on a map, but the community did not have a joint use agreement with the school, so it was locked after school hours (which didn’t stop the kids from breaking the lock 7 times to get in and play!).

An alternative food project reflecting complex interaction between consumers and the local food environment, Lauren Anderson and Katherine Wright, Northwestern University.

In Chicago, where 25% of residents live below the poverty line, roughly 384,000 people live in areas with low access to healthy and affordable foods.  To address this, a local organization created Neighbor Carts–mobile food carts to sell fresh foods.  The presenters then evaluated the program.  The carts were operated by hard-to-employ folks who then became pseudo entrepreneurs.  The evaluation team attempted to understand what made a cart successful in underserved areas compared to non-underserved areas of Chicago.  What did they learn?  The success factors varied per neighborhood.  There’s no one-size-fits-all answer.

Developing a policy research agenda for healthy food access in rural communities, Emilee Quinn, University of Washington.

Rural communities often are neglected by food access researchers.  Rural communities have unique challenges that lead to nutrition related health issues and are deserving of attention and appropriate intervention.  To determine what barriers and assets exist, this research team is developing an agenda by asking local stakeholders to fill in this blank: “One thing that does or could make a difference in access to healthy food in rural areas is ___________”  These answers were analyzed, ranked, and prioritized with the help of community members.  They identified the following policy research priorities: 1) Food and nutrition support adaptations; 2) Retail availability and shopping patterns; 3) Food production and distribution capacity; and 4) Economic development and viability and consumer purchasing power.

Is the local food environment related to obesity and dietary behavior?  It may depend on how you characterize the food environment.  Susan Babey, UCLA.

The research was very interesting to me. The existing research is very split on whether or not the food environment we live in really impacts our health outcomes.  It makes sense that it would, but can we prove it?  And if it does have an impact, how do we measure it?  The team learned that when the environment is measured as a ratio of less healthy food options:more healthy food options, we see a connection.  A higher ratio is linked with higher obesity rates, higher consumption of fast foods and soda, and lower consumption of fruits and vegetables.

10:30-12:00pm – Nutrition Disparities and Food Insecurity

Wisconsin food security project: Visualizing and accessing data on food access and the food security infrastructure in Wisconsin, Amber Canto, University of Wisconsin-Extension

This project was all about developing an interactive online tool to allow Wisconsin residents to explore the food security factors in their region.  The factors are focused on the four pillars of food security: 1) Economic security, 2) Access to healthy and affordable food, 3) Strong federal food and nutrition programs, 4) Robust emergency/charitable food system

Food pantry intervention increases food security, diet quality and self-sufficiency: Results from an 18 month randomized control study, Katie Martin, University of Connecticut

No one had ever done an evaluation of food pantries’ impact on food security.  By definition, if a family is receiving food from a pantry, they are food insecure.  “Freshplace is a novel, community-based food pantry intervention based on the Stages of Change theoretical model. Freshplace is a client-choice fresh food pantry where members meet with a Project Manager monthly to set goals for becoming food secure and self sufficient.”    Turns out, this intervention was pretty effective.  Freshplace participants were less likely to experience very low food security and improved their self-sufficiency and fruit and vegetable consumption.  Stay tuned for their implementation guide!

Urban very low food-secure families experience similar demands, but have fewer assets to adapt compared to other food-insecure families, Sonya Jones, University of South Carolina

The title pretty much tells this story.  The difference between the two groups were income, family support, negative life events, and transportation availability.  The very low food-secure families were more likely to be experiencing more negative life events (makes sense) and didn’t have resources to deal with them.

Pediatric obesity risk assessment in the preschool setting: Factor validation with Spanish-speaking families, Ruby Natale, University of Miami

Given how important early education is for everything, it is important to develop accurate measurement tools to use with young populations.  In this project, the researchers spent a good deal of time translating the survey tools to Spanish with special consideration given the different countries of origin of the participants.

Stay tuned for the rest of the week!

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