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September 2016
 The Childhood Obesity Epidemic 
What's Policy Got to Do with It?
School doors are swinging open again, and hungry kids are sniffing their lunch bags and checking their pockets for snack money. But healthy eating - and a healthy body weight - depends not only on what parents put in the lunch bag, it also depends on the array of physical activity and education policies on the other side of the school door. Children spend much of their time in school, giving schools a unique opportunity to affect child health outcomes.
One primary outcome of weak physical education policies - and the trend toward decreased physical activity in children and adolescents - is  overweight and  obesity . According to the CDC, childhood obesity has doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents over the past three decades.Today, more than 1 in 3 children are overweight or obese. Packing a healthy lunch is still important. But parents, community leaders and other child health advocates will also need to address school policies in physical activity and physical education, and these policies can vary widely from state-to-state and from one school district to another. Learn more by visiting the  School Obesity Prevention Recommendations  resource page created by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Also, click here for  Preventing Childhood Obesity: A School Health Policy Guide by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

A Maryland Community Pursues Environmental Justice

The Chalking Point Generating System is one of the two power plants already operating near or in Brandywine, MD. 
Source: Earthjustice.org

In Brandywine, Maryland - where 7 in 10 residents are minorities - a community-driven coalition of environmental groups is taking public policy to task to fight plans to build yet another power plant in a community already besieged by high levels of pollution. Brandywine, a town of less than 7,000 people located in Prince George's County, Maryland, has the worst ozone pollution of any county in the state. 

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, ozone and other air pollutants are asthma triggers. In Maryland's Asthma Control Program, African American adults are nearly two and a half times more likley to die from asthma.The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets standards for air pollutants that pose a public health threat, including ozone, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and sulphur dioxide.

In response to the state's approval of a permit to build the fifth power plant within a 13-mile radius of Brandywine, a coalition of environmental groups filed a federal civil rights violation complaint against the state. Federal officials said the complaint is under review. Learn more  here .


HPRC Highlights Consortium Partnership: Morgan State University

Morgan State University's School of Community Health and Policy (SCHP) is an HPRC consortium partner that will soon play a key role in providing scientific support to HPRC's policy investigations. As a NIMHD-funded Transdisciplinary Collaborative Center (TCC), HPRC collaborates with a regional consortium of academic institutions, community organizations, service providers and other stakeholders focused on health policy research and the social determinants of health. SCHP will focus mainly on providing scientific support for the Health Policy Literacy Study (HPLS), including its design, implementation, analysis and reporting. HPLS is policy research initiative that will create a scientifically valid tool for measuring what community members, policymakers and other key stakeholders know about health disparities and health policy. In 2005, Morgan State University established the School of Community Health and Policy SCHP to develop a corps of health professionals committed to transforming urban communities by promoting health and reducing disparities.The social determinants of health framework and community-based participatory research (CBPR) are key components of SCHP's teaching and research efforts.

Health leaders talk policy on Conversations on Health Equity

HPRC is full speed ahead with the creation of
Conversations on Health Equity, a public policy video series that explores major health equity issues with national, regional and local health leaders.Recently, HPRC completed its first round of video recordings, with guests discussing the social determinants of health, the social justice framework for addressing health inequities, the role of the faith community improving health outcomes and disparities, and policy initiatives for addressing health disparities. Program host John Sankofa has interviewed Eliseo J. PĂ©rez-Stable, M.D., Director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH); Richard Hofrichter, PhD, Director, Health Equity, National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) and editor of Health and Social Justice ; Thomas LaVeist, PhD, Chairman, Department of Health Policy, George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health; Vinny DeMarco, President, Maryland Healthcare for All Coalition; and Leana Wen, MD, Commissioner, Baltimore City Health Department.
HPRC Initiates the 150 Years Later Project

From the first federal health disparity intervention in 1865 to the rollout of major health equity provisions of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, the government has undertaken substantial policy efforts to address health inequities facing minority populations.Recently, HPRC started research on the 150 Years Later Project, a peer-reviewed paper and interactive timeline that traces federal and selected state health disparity policies - and their outcomes - from 1865 to 2015.
"Our goal is to identify what government has been doing over time to close the health gap," said John Sankofa, HPRC Senior Health Writer."We want to see what major policy lessons can be drawn from 150 years of national and regional effort."The research team will trace major health disparity polices across time, assessing policy trends and paradigms, and evaluating correlations between policies and key health outcomes, including life expectancy, overall mortality and infant mortality. In addition to a peer-reviewed paper on policy history and trend analysis, the project will also create an online interactive timeline to help inform the work of policy researchers and other stakeholders regionally and nationally.

Criminal Charges - the Policy Lever that Gets Attention

When calling your local policymaker or health department yields no results, communities are now witnessing a new policy lever that gets attention:  criminal charges . In Flint, Michigan, where a neglectful response to the risk of water contamination has disproportionately impacted black and low-income residents, a total of nine current and former state employees, including a health official in charge of drinking water quality, have been charged with criminal offenses. State prosecutors have asserted that the Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Health and Human Services altered and manipulated public health data - and advised others not to report any health problems.The charges range from willful neglect of duty to conspiracy. Two years ago, in an effort to save money, the state of Michigan switched Flint's water supply from Lake Huron to the contaminated Flint River.Last year, researchers discovered dangerously high levels of lead in Flint residents, especially children. According to a policy coalition of more than 200 experts concerned about the impact of the crisis on communities of color and the poor, Flint's citizens were"  denied equal protection of the laws ."
Delaware Expands School Wellness Centers 

In Delaware, until recently, all but three state high schools had wellness centers.But that changed, this past summer, when Governor Jack Markell signed House Bill 234 into law, effectively adopting the wellness center as a statewide student health model for Delaware. Rep. Kim Williams was the bill's lead sponsor.Unlike the conventional "nurse's office" model, school wellness centers in Delaware provide a wider and more specialized array of health services, including counseling, nutrition services and health screenings.Staff at the wellness center can even follow-up with the student's primary care doctor. As adolescence can be an especially tough time for teens, the new state policy now requires that every high school have a wellness center, which can serve as a support resource for behavioral health care.
Top services provided by Delaware's school-based wellness centers are :
  • Sports physicals
  • Behavioral health counseling
  • Primary Prevention and Early Intervention
  • Health Education
  • Information and Referral
Learn more here about Delaware's recent policy expansion of school wellness centers.
Events Calendar

8th Annual Health Literacy Research Conference
WHEN October 13-14, 2016
WHERE:  Hyatt Regency Bethesda, Bethesda, Maryland
Registration is open.Click here for more information.

WHAT 29th Annual State Health Policy Conference  
WHEN:  October 17-19, 2016
WHERE:  Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh, 600 Commonwealth Place, Pittsburgh, PA 1522
Click here for additional information.

WHAT APHA 2016 Annual Meeting and Exposition 
WHEN:  October 29-Nov 2, 2016
WHERE:  Colorado Convention Center, 700 14th Street, Denver, CO 80202
Click  here  for additional information.

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Please feel free to contact the HPRC Team at 301.375.2021 with any questions.

Thank you,

The Health Policy Research Consortium

HPRC, a CTIS Inc. division, is supported by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) of the National Institutes of Health under award number #1U54MD008608-01. This content does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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