AJPH News Release

EMBARGOED UNTIL May 17, 2012, 4 PM (EDT)

Newswise — The articles below will be published online May 17, 2012, at 4 p.m. (EDT) by the American Journal of Public Health® under “First Look” at http://www.ajph.org/first_look.shmtl, and they are currently scheduled to appear in the July 2012 print issue of the Journal. Note the Perna study, however, will be included in the August print issue. “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.

(1) Required physical education in schools may ensure kids meet daily recommended physical activity levels

In a time period when many schools are eliminating their physical education classes even while childhood obesity and diabetes rates skyrocket in this country, a national study published today in the American Journal of Public Health finds that specific and required state PE time-related laws may be a crucial tool for ensuring that daily physical activity recommendations among children are met.

Researchers examined whether or not public schools in states with specific and stringent physical education laws reported more weekly PE time in the most recent School Health Policies and Programs Survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study included a total of 410 schools grouped by their state’s PE time requirement scores as determined by the Classification of Laws Associated with School Students (C.L.A.S.S. class.cancer.org) scoring system. Researchers found that schools in states with specific requirement laws (i.e., strong laws) averaged over 27 and 60 more PE minutes per week at the elementary school and middle school levels, respectively, compared with schools in states with nonspecific laws (i.e., weak laws). Compared with elementary and middle schools with no PE laws or requirements, they found that the schools in states with strong codified PE laws averaged over 40 and 60 more minutes a week respectively.

The study’s authors stated, “Decline in physical activity is most pronounced as children transition from elementary and middle school to high school whether physical activity is measured by self-report or by objective measurement. Similarly, there is an increase in sedentary behavior as children transition from primary to secondary school. ….children do not compensate for less PE in school by adding physical activity outside of school, and PE may an important contributor to overall physical activity… [since] average PE time is below school health guidelines….”

The study concludes that codified state PE laws among U.S. elementary and middle schools should both require and specify a minimum amount of PE to address current school health guidelines and gaps in physical activity among children.

[From: “The Association of State Law to Physical Education Times Allocation in US Public Schools.” Contact: Frank Perna, EdD, PhD, Health Behaviors Research Branch, Division of Cancer Control and Population Services, Behavioral Research Program, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Md., pernafm@mail.nih.gov.] *Note: To be included in August print issue of Am Jrl of Public Health, but published online ahead of time on May 17, 2012, at 4 p.m. ET.

(2) Lowering alcohol consumption in Australia could lead to economic, health gains

Economic and health benefits could be achieved if Australia reduced its overall national annual alcohol consumption, reports a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

Researchers estimated the economic benefits to health, production and leisure in the 2008 Australian population of a realistic target reduction in per capita annual adult alcohol consumption. They designated a target of 6.4 liters annually per capita on average. They found that a reduction of 3.4 liters of alcohol consumed annually per capita would result in one-third fewer incident cases of disease, deaths, working days lost, days of home-based production lost and a $789 million sector cost reduction to the health sector.

The study’s authors suggested, “If Australia were able to achieve a national reduction in adult alcohol consumption from an average 9.8 liters to 6.4 liters per capita per year, the largest component of the total potential opportunity cost savings modeled would occur in the health sector, followed by workforce and household production, respectively, using the more realistic FCA (friction cost approach, a more conservative estimate). We estimated a reduction in new cases of alcohol-related disease (alcohol dependence, suicides, injuries and cancers), decline in days absent from work and an increase in days of home-based production.”

[From: "The Economic Gains of Achieving Reduced Alcohol Consumption Targets for Australia." Contact: Anne Magnus, Deakin University, Victoria, Australia, anne.magnus@deakin.edu.au.]

(3) South Dakota Indian reservation reports high food insecurity

Food insecurity — defined as the state of either having limited or uncertain access to food that is nutritionally adequate, culturally acceptable, and safe or having an uncertain ability to acquire foods in socially acceptable ways — is prevalent among families living on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, reports a recent study from the American Journal of Public Health.

Researchers examined the prevalence and consequences of food insecurity among American Indian families with young children. Parents or caregivers of kindergarten-age Lakota children enrolled in the Bright Start study living on the Pine Ridge Reservation completed a questionnaire on their child’s dietary intake, the home food environment and food security. Approximately 40 percent of parents reported that their households had experienced food insecurity within the past 12 months. About a third of these 124 families experienced very low food security. Children from food-insecure households were more likely to eat some less healthy types of food, including items purchased at convenience stores, and food-insecure parents reported experiencing several barriers to accessing healthful food, perpetuating the cycle.

The study’s authors wrote, “Specifically among the Lakota people residing on the Pine Ridge reservation, community- and family-based efforts such as shared gardens, organized transportation to high-quality supermarkets, home economics classes for adults and children that teach skills to create simple and healthful meals, and cooking and canning collectives may increase access to and knowledge about healthful food while building social networks and social capital in communities, which can buffer the harmful effect that poverty, unemployment and discrimination have on health.”

[From: “High Food Insecurity and Its Correlates Among Families Living on a Rural American Indian Reservation.” Contact: Katherine W. Bauer, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pa., Katherine.Bauer@Temple.edu.] ###

The American Journal of Public Health is the monthly journal of the American Public Health Association® (APHA), the oldest and most diverse organization of public health professionals in the world. APHA is a leading publisher of books and periodicals promoting sound scientific standards, action programs and public policy to enhance health. More information is available at www.apha.org.

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