by Chelsea Jenter, Nicole Witham, and John Livingstone
We asked our research team: "What did you learn at ObesityWeek 2014?" Their responses will be posted over the course of the next seven days.
Click on "read more" to read the first three...
Obesity Prevention Program team members left to right: Renata Smith, Nicole Witham, Marie-France Hivert, Mia Serabian, Stephanie Linakis, John Livingstone, Sheryl Rifas-Shiman, Jason Block, Chelsea Jenter, Anita Abure
I went to an “innovation” session, during which there was a presentation on “new generation” fit bits. I was amazed by a “patch” that you wear on your waistline, via an adhesive, for up to a week at a time. Right now, it’s too big and can’t be used by the public. But, manufacturers are working on making it smaller. It measures everything you can think of – activity, sleep, heart rate, blood pressure, biofeedback, mood, stress – in total about 20+ things are captured by it. I was also impressed by tiny machines that “dissolve” once they’ve done their “job” – e.g., biological measures. They haven’t reached the public yet, either, but are very promising additions.
Another talk focused on the correlation of mood and physical activity. The more fluctuation in mood, the less physical activity. Another interesting finding was that maternal stress and parenting negatively affects physical activity in kids. That makes sense, but sometimes it’s very helpful to have the evidence to support what we know by common sense.
At The Obesity Society meeting, I was most amazed at how many different areas of study there are within obesity research. As a fairly new member of the research community, I found that my research is somewhat narrowly focused within the totality of obesity research. After the conference, however, I walked away with a greater understanding of the many emerging interventions aimed at reducing the prevalence of obesity, from a demonstration of real-time monitoring of health behavior for reducing sedentary activity to the importance of reducing weight stigma in the media so that we can better encourage rather than shame individuals living with obesity.
There was a recurrent theme at Obesity Week 2014: it can be incredibly challenging for an individual to make the behavioral changes—particularly surrounding healthful nutrition or weight loss—necessary to improve health. That being said, at the meeting, researchers presented on ways that relatively simple adjustments help people make changes. Juliana Cohen of Harvard School of Public Health presented results of her study that led to increased selection and consumption of healthier foods by middle school students after changing the presentation of items in school cafeterias (“choice architecture”) and providing “chef-inspired menus”. These strategies appeared to be cost-effective and subtly encouraged students to make healthier choices without requiring additional effort on their part. Another researcher, Lavoria Williams of Georgia State University, spoke about the Fit Body and Soul project that used the infrastructure already present within a community to implement a targeted community-based intervention. It is innovative to use a community’s own infrastructure and trusted leaders to implement a successful intervention. This particular intervention was led by pastors in a church regularly attended by the target population.