Part 2 of Day 2 at APHA

These summaries quickly became too much for one post.  I don’t want to overwhelm ya’ll with a full day’s learnings in one go.  For pete’s sake–it was too overwhelming to take it all in in one day!  So here’s the second half of Monday.  For the first half, click here, and for opening day with the Boston special guests, click here.

2:30-4:00pm - Overweight and Obesity Prevention and Interventions in School Age Children: USDA Supported Projects

Overweight and obesity prevention and interventions in school-aged children – USDA – NIFA supported programs, Deirdra Chester, USDA

Unfortunately for Dr. Chester and us, government travel restrictions prevented Chester from coming to Boston to give her presentation in person.  Ever dedicated, she recorded her presentation and sent her slides to be played in her absence.

A representative of the USDA, Chester was clarifying the role and priorities of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) FY2013 grant program.  NIFA was interested in supporting research, community interventions, and projects investigating broad behaviors.  And grantees must do all equally!  The 2014 RFA has not been released yet, but I got the impression that potential applicants should take note of the following presentations from current grantees…

The Colorado LEAP Study: A longitudinal study to assess if the effectiveness of a preschool nutrition and physical activity program is sustained in elementary school, Laura Bellows, Colorado State University

We understand that early childhood is a key time to intervene and teach healthy habits around nutrition and physical activity.  But are the effects seen maintained as the child ages?  Can we teach a kid something in preschool and have it stick into elementary school?

In preschool this program works to improve a kid’s willingness to try new foods.  How many of us grown-ups claim we don’t like beets but haven’t tried them in years, if ever?  Trying new foods, especially unfamiliar vegetables and fruits, is key to developing a varied and nutritious diet.  Preschool is also a time when gross motor skills are developed.  We all learned to balance on a low beam, do a jumping jack, skip, etc.  Building confidence in these behaviors leads to improved physical activity levels.

Now to be completely honest, I don’t have any more to tell you.  I’m not sure if they don’t have results yet, or if I just didn’t write them down.  I did a quick search and didn’t find a published paper with the outcomes, but it could be in the works.  Keep tabs on them if this is your piece of carrot cake.

Knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors towards snacking and health in northeast Kansas school children and their parents, Tandalayo Kidd, Kansas State University (student actually presented the information)

My first reaction as I type this: “towards” isn’t a word.  It is certainly poor grammar.  I’m not perfect (don’t point out every mistake I’ve ever made in the comments!), but this one happens to be a pet peeve of mine.  I can’t watch America’s Next Top Model anymore because Tyra uses “towards” ALL THE TIME.

But I digress…

The research is attempting to learn about the contexts of snacking among young people (7th graders) and their parents.  The thought is that if snacking is connected to overweight and obesity, then we need to learn more about this behavior if we want to change it.

Improving school nutrition options through targeted environmental and policy actions, Deborah John, Oregon State University

Dr. John is conducting an assessment to identify gaps and assign scores in three categories for both nutrition and physical activity in the school environment.

SNPA Diagram

COPASCities: Working together for food and systems change, Sonya Jones, University of South Carolina

COPASCities seeks to 1) build the capacity of community leaders to change the food system in South Carolina, and 2) better understand how leaders changes food systems.  (That bit was stolen from their facebook page).  Dr. Jones shared how she has worked to add community organizing concepts to empower community members and help advocate for the change needed.  For example, projects like food hubs and community gardens take an organized community to make them happen.

They are creating a model that hopefully can be replicated in other parts of the country.  Follow them on facebook to learn more.

4:30-6:00pm - Intersections Among Local, State, and Federal Food and Farm Policy: Cultivating the Environment for Policy Change that Supports Public Health

Leveraging local efforts for national scope: How the city of Boston is shifting the food system to promote health equity, Aliza Wasserman, Boston Public Health Commission

Boston has targeted three diseases with the greatest disparity gaps: obesity, low birth weight, and chlamydia.  She pointed out that the solutions to addressing these issues go beyond traditional “food policy.”  In health disparities, the legacy of racial discrimination impacts many facets of life.

How did they do it?

1. Expand federal program: Boston Bounty Bucks (much like Baltimore’s Bonus Bucks)

2. Use federal funds: Dudley Greenhouse

3. Use local zoning authority: Urban Agriculture Rezoning Article 89 of the Boston Zoning Code

4. Advocate for change to state or federal law: School Nutrition Competitive Foods (standards set for the state), United States Conference of Mayors

5. Bully pulpit: Mayor’s Executive Order on sugar sweetened beverages

State level change: Models for achieving food and farm policy that supports human and environmental health, Holly Calhoun, Healthy Farms Healthy People

Not gonna lie, by this time of day I was getting tired and my brain was getting full.  I remember really liking this person and wanting to follow up and check out their website (which is why I linked it above).  My handwritten notes from the talk don’t make a ton of sense…but I’ll share what I can make out from it!

From their website: “The Healthy Farms Healthy People Coalition works for policy reform that promotes the health of all Americans while strengthening the economic and environmental viability of the food and agricultural sectors. HFHP focuses on policies that help ensure all Americans have access to a safe, affordable, and healthy diet. Healthy farms and healthy people are essential ingredients for a healthy economy.”

From my notes: Local food policy councils are often very active on a local level, but they aren’t as good at working together on a systemic level to make broader change.  If you are really lucky, your state’s department of agriculture might put together a state Farm to Fork Office, like California did.   So jealous.

Essential ties between public health, the environment, and our federal food and farm policy, Helen Dombalis, National Farm to School Network

Poor Helen was the last speaker of the day on my first full day of APHA.  Fortunately for me, she was a pretty engaging speaker!  (And it didn’t hurt that I remembered meeting her in Washington, D.C. a year ago when she was with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.)

Helen talked about the process of federal policy and how it can impact public health.  A big take-away for me was the multiple steps involved in policy development:

1. Concept: we have an idea for a policy

2. Authorization: the appropriate authority votes to authorize the policy, making it official

3. Appropriations: how(or even IF)  it will get funded

4. Implementation: the appropriate agency (hopefully) actually does what the policy is designed to do

5. Evaluation: did the policy work as intended?  Is it up for renewal?  Then we go back to step 1.

Big federal policies like the Farm Bill, Food Safety Modernization Act, and Child Nutrition Reauthoriztion go through these processes.  And it’s important for public health professionals to be advocates in this process to speak up for the needs and goals of public health.

7:00-9:00pm – Johns Hopkins School of Public Health Networking Reception.  This is where I eat free food, drink free drinks, and hob nob with fellow Hopkins alum or faculty.  I got lucky and ran into my advisor, who I didn’t know would be there!  I also met a few current students and other recent graduates.  One student remembered the presentation I gave to her class and I felt all special!