Embargoed AJPH Research: Youth Weight and Choosing Friends, Lowering Fast Food Consumption, School Tap Water Quality

Released: 12-May-2014 12:00 PM EDT
Embargo expired: 15-May-2014 4:00 PM EDT
Source Newsroom: American Public Health Association (APHA)
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Contact: For copies of articles or full table of contents of this month’s released studies, call Kimberly Short, 202-777-2511, or email Kimberly.Short@apha.org.

American Journal of Public Health highlights:
1. Adolescent weight status may impact friend selection
2. Emphasizing healthy eating norms could be more effective than food taxes or food zoning restrictions
3. Many schools not meeting ideal tap water access criteria

External funding support for this issue was provided by Envision, a network of modeling teams devoted to using systems science and statistical approaches to address obesity (see http://www.nccor.org/envision). Envision is affiliated with the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR).

Adolescent weight status may impact friend selection
New research from the American Journal of Public Health finds that overweight youth are less likely than non-overweight youth to be chosen as a friend by their peers.

The study involved data from 58,897 students from 88 middle and high schools that participated in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent health. Using a social networking approach, adolescent participants, at an average age of 15, were asked to identify their five closest female friends and five closest male friends. Body mass index was self-reported and participants were categorized as underweight, healthy weight, overweight or obese.

Results from the study indicate that non-overweight youths were more likely to select non-overweight friends than they would choose overweight friends. In addition, overweight youth were indifferent to weight status in selecting their friends. Finally, researchers found that overweight youth were more likely to choose a non-overweight friend than they were likely to receive a non-overweight friend selection in return.

“The goal of this study was to offer a detailed account of how adolescent weight status affects friend selection. Using a social network approach, we tested how the weight status of the person initiating the friendship and the weight status of the friendship target combine to affect friendship likelihood,” the study’s authors explain.

[“Using Social Network Analysis to Clarify the Role of Obesity in Selection of Adolescent Friends.” Contact: David Schaefer, PhD, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Tempe, AZ., email: david.schaefer@asu.edu]

Emphasizing healthy eating norms could be more effective than food taxes or food zoning restrictions
Promoting healthy eating norms is found to be more effective in increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables and lowering fast food consumption than increasing food taxes or fast food zoning regulations, according to a new study from the American Journal of Public Health.

Using a computer model simulation, researchers predicted the impact of varying food policies on individual’s consumption of food. The simulation was set in Pasadena, California and accounted for consumer diversity in food preference, behaviors, demographics and various other factors. The study observed the impact of policies including taxes on healthy food; subsidies for healthy food; promotion of healthy norms; and regulation of the food environment.

Results from the study indicate that increasing taxes on fast food items by 20 percent would lower fast food consumption by 3 percent. Improving the density of stores with fruits and vegetables would improve consumer likelihood of finding stores with healthy options by 2 percent. However, improving the visibility of positive social norms by 10 percent would increase fruit and vegetable consumption by 7 percent and decrease fast food consumption by 6 percent.

“Our agent-based simulation model suggests that social networks have significant potential to influence dietary decisions….The value of our simulation is to put this insight into a comparative perspective: not only do social networks affect dietary behavior, but they may be the most significant modifiable contributor to such behavior, far stronger than other proposed interventions (e.g., strategies designed to affect the relative prices and availabilities of healthy and unhealthy foods),” the researchers conclude.


[“Impact of Different Policies on Unhealthy Dietary Behaviors in an Urban Adult Population: An Agent-Based Simulation Model.” Contact: Donglan Zhang, MA, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, Department of Helath Policy and Management, Los Angeles, email: stacyzdl@ucla.edu]

Many schools not meeting ideal tap water access criteria
According to new research from the American Journal of Public Health, many schools are not providing tap water that meets excellent water access criteria.

Researchers conducted phone interviews at 240 California public schools. School administrators were asked various questions regarding the free water sources at their schools addressing five criteria: water sources in four of five key school locations; high density of water sources available in relation to school population; availability of water through a non-fountain source; ability to provide tap water that is safe and appealing; and the maintenance and cleanliness of the water fountains.

Results indicated that no schools met all five criteria. Furthermore, secondary schools, schools in urban locations and older schools met the fewest of the study’s standards. Among administrators’ indicated barriers for excellent water access were budget concerns and other academic issues.

“Although nearly all schools in our study met the building code requirement, merely having fountains in place may be insufficient for increasing water intake among students. This is particularly true if fountains are not maintained or if students perceive water from fountains to be unsafe,” the authors note.

“Drinking sugary beverages may have dire health consequences, including obesity, diabetes, and dental caries, particularly for low-income and minority children who are most likely to consume these beverages. In order to address this problem, it is important to promote low-cost healthy beverage alternatives such as water in schools - a location where children spend substantial time,” the authors explain.

“Schools have made great strides in reducing availability of sugar-sweetened beverages, yet ensuring excellence in drinking water access in schools is still an area of significant need, especially in schools in which students have high rates of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and associated health conditions such as obesity and dental caries,” they conclude.

[“Tapping Into Water: Key Considerations for Achieving Excellence in School Drinking Water Access.” Contact: Anisha Patel, MD, MSPH, MSHS, Department of Pediatrics, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, San Francisco and Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, University of California, San Francisco, email:PatelA@peds.ucsf.edu]

Find a full list of research papers to be published online on May 15, 2014, at 4 p.m. EDT below:

• Who says what to whom about #childhoodobesity on Twitter
• Family Structure and Child Food Insecurity
• Connecting race and place: A county-level analysis of white, black and Hispanic HIV prevalence, poverty and level of urbanization
• Health literacy: A pathway to better oral health
• Comparing medical and dental providers of oral health services on early dental caries experience
• Achieving the Healthy People 2020 Obesity Objective: a metabolic-epidemiologic model of body mass trends and disparities
• Systems Science and Obesity Policy: A Novel Framework for Analyzing and Rethinking Population-Level Planning
• Impact of Different Policies on Unhealthy Dietary Behaviors in an Urban Adult Population: An Agent-based Simulation Model
• Using Social Network Analysis to Clarify the Role of Obesity in Adolescent Friend Selection
• Modeling U.S. Adult Obesity Trends: A System Dynamics Model for Estimating Energy Imbalance Gap
• A Novel System Dynamics Model of Female Obesity and Fertility
• Control Systems Engineering for Optimizing a Prenatal Weight Gain Intervention to Regulate Infant Birth Weight
• Evaluation of Bias in Estimates of Early Childhood Obesity from Parent-Reported Heights and Weights
• Gender-specific associations of objective and perceived neighborhood characteristics with body mass index and waist circumference among older adults in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing
• Obesity and the Natural Environment Across U.S. Counties
• The Cost-Effectiveness of New York City's Safe Routes to School Program
• Adding Evidence-based Behavioral Weight Loss Strategies to a Statewide Wellness Campaign: A Randomized Clinical Trial
• Colorectal cancer screening among homeless population of New York City shelter-based clinics
• Federally Qualified Health Center's System Strategies for Colorectal Cancer Screening
• Community water fluoridation and intelligence
• Tapping into Water: Key Considerations for Achieving Excellence in School Drinking Water Access
• Persistent Organic Pollutants in Dust from Older Homes: What Can We Learn from Lead?
• Rates and Predictors of Suicidal Ideation during the First Year after Traumatic Brain Injury
• "I Always Felt I Had to Prove My Manhood:" Homosexuality, Masculinity, Gender Role Strain, and HIV Risk in the Lives of Young Black Men who have Sex with Men
• Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment for Older Adults with Substance Misuse
• Epidemiology and Antimicrobial Resistance of International Travel-associated Campylobacter Infections in the United States, 2005-2011
• Results of the SMILE Study: A randomized controlled trial of the effect of a brief case management intervention to link HIV-positive persons to oral health care
• Age, Period and Cohort Trends in Caries of Permanent Teeth in Four Developed Countries
• Caregivers saying "no" to preventive care for their children: the relationship between immunization and topical fluoride refusal
• All-Cause, Cardiovascular, and Cancer Mortality in Western Alaska Native People: Western Alaska Tribal Collaborative for Health (WATCH)

The articles above will be published online May 15, 2014, at 4 p.m. (EDT) by the American Journal of Public Health® under “First Look” at http://www.ajph.org/first_look.shmtl. “First Look” articles have undergone peer review, copyediting and approval by authors but have not yet been printed to paper or posted online by issue. The American Journal of Public Health is published by the American Public Health Association, www.apha.org, and is available at www.ajph.org.
The American Journal of Public Health ® is the monthly journal of the American Public Health Association. APHA champions the health of all people and all communities by strengthening the profession of public health, sharing the latest research and information, promoting best practices and advocating for public health issues and policies grounded in research. More information is available at www.apha.org.

Complimentary online access to the Journal is available to credentialed members of the media. Address inquiries to Kimberly Short at APHA, 202-777-2511, or via email, Kimberly.Short@apha.org. A single print issue of the Journal is available for $35 from the Journal’s Subscriptions department at www.ajph.org/subscriptions. If you are not a member of the press, a member of APHA or a subscriber, online single issue access is $30 and online single article access is $22 at www.ajph.org or for direct customer service, call 202-777-2516, or email ajph.subscriptions@apha.org.

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