In a recent study, researchers at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation Research Institute (PAMFRI) ranked the healthiness of 150 national chain restaurants in the United States. The 2013 study was lead by Primary Investigator Lenny Lesser, M.D., MSHS, a family medicine physician at PAMFRI, and funded in part by The California Endowment. Dr. Lesser presented the team’s research – and the launch of a new interactive rating system and website for consumers that shares information on which chain restaurants are healthier than others – on November 19, 2014 at the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting in New Orleans.
The rise of childhood obesity is a huge concern but what can be done about it? Palo Alto Medical Foundation health educator Nancy Brown, Ph.D., has some concrete ideas and these recently became a reality thanks to a grant from the Safeway Foundation.
The $60,418 grant will be used to fund PAMF’s WAY2GO! Preteen Family project that educates preteens and their families about the importance of making good food choices and maintaining a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI).
“WAY2GO! Preteen Family focuses on children aged 9 to 12 years old as this is a critical time for establishing good nutrition and exercise habits for life,” says Brown who is leading the WAY2GO! Preteen Family project. “This is also very much a family-based program as for this age group the parents still control the whole families’ health habits. This valuable tool will make it easier and more fun for families to make lasting behavior changes.”
Brown worked together with Martha Simmons, M.D., Ph.D., a content manager at PAMF’s David Druker Center for Health Systems Innovation, to obtain the Safeway Foundation grant. Elizabeth W. Lee, M.D., a family medicine doctor at PAMF’s Palo Alto Center, provided a medical review of the WAY2GO! Preteen Family online tool.
Schools and community-based organizations can participate in this project that provides many components to help get the whole family on track to good health:
- WAY2GO! Preteen Family Tool: Participating families take an online health assessment. They then receive a report based on their answers and access to their online dashboard where they can set health goals or track behavior.
- Free Preventive Health Screening: Up to eight members of each participating family are screened at a local Safeway pharmacy for preventive health goals, BMI and blood pressure. The screening helps families prioritize health goals and provides resources, including information on low-cost clinics for families without health insurance.
- Follow Up: Before the end of the school year, families will be encouraged to repeat their online WAY2GO! assessment and share their experiences about participating in the program.
- Data for Schools: Each participating school receives aggregate data (gathered through the WAY2GO! tool) about the health challenges of their participants and suggestions for meeting those challenges (for example, through parent education or bike helmet safety campaigns).
The first school to participate in the project is Landels Elementary School in Mountain View, Calif., with many other local schools slated to participate soon.
More About WAY2GO!
The online WAY2GO! Preteen Family tool is based on the teen version of the program that is free for schools and doctors’ offices to use to assess teenagers’ health and motivate healthy decision making. WAY2GO! for teens won the 2011 Society for Adolescent Health Care and Medicine’s Hilary E. C. Millar Award for Innovative Approaches to Adolescent Health Care and is being used by more than 400 teenagers through doctors’ offices and high schools in the U.S. There’s also a version of the online tool for young adults (18 to 25 years old).
More About the Safeway Foundation’s Grant to PAMF
The grant for the WAY2GO! Preteen Family project is part of $2 million in grants that the Safeway Foundation is giving back to community health programs and hospitals to launch grass-roots projects for the prevention and treatment of childhood obesity in the Bay Area and across the United States.
JAMA Publishes Editorial by PAMF Physician
While some health professionals have called for changes to the food environment, less attention is paid to the quality of food medical professionals themselves are eating at medical meetings, conferences and seminars, as well as at hospitals and clinics.
The problem of physician eating habits and potential solutions are described in the September 12, 2012, edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, (JAMA) an international peer-reviewed medical journal.
“Most people in the U.S. eat too much food, and physicians are not immune to the obesity epidemic,” says Lenard Lesser, M.D., MSHS, a Family Medicine physician with the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF) and research physician at the PAMF Research Institute. “If a doctor is overweight, it may affect their approach to patient care, as overweight physicians are less likely to counsel patients about obesity.”
Dr. Lesser co-authored the Viewpoint piece with Deborah Cohen, M.D., MPH, and Robert Brook, M.D., ScD, researchers from the RAND Corporation. He worked with them while he was in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
In the Viewpoint piece, Dr. Lesser observes that medical organizations could take several initial steps toward better meals and healthy eating for health professionals.
Similar to the healthy movement of smoke-free campuses becoming a standard, “certified healthy” meals could be an industry model, Dr. Lesser posits. He points out that the movement for smoke-free workplaces started in hospitals. A similar movement could start with healthy meals in medical practices, and spread to surrounding communities.
“The medical profession has the capacity to encourage food-system change within its own institutions,” concludes Dr. Lesser. “This could reduce caloric consumption by health professionals, support the health of physicians, and potentially cause a positive ripple effect in local food economies.
“Caterers could even alter their nutritional sales pitch to indicate that, ‘These are like the lunches your doctor eats’,” Dr. Lesser says.
Dr. Lesser makes several other recommendations to improve the food served to health professionals in the article, including providing calorie labeling and eliminating sugar-sweetened beverages.
Contact: Dr. Lenny Lesser, 650-330-4576; email@example.com. @LennyLesser
With childhood obesity an epidemic and children’s inactivity an ongoing concern, how can we make sure our children develop healthy eating habits, and enjoy healthy and active lives? In California’s San Francisco Bay Area, the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF) is helping to address this serious health crisis by providing a Youth Nutrition Program that reaches out to young people through schools and youth organizations to help children develop life-long healthy eating habits and exercise patterns.
“Our Youth Nutrition Program uses a wealth of hands-on activities, interactive models and touchable displays to teach children about food, exercise and how our bodies work,” explains Jeremy Loader, who coordinates the program. “Our program is completely tailored to its audience, engaging children in a very positive and exciting way while providing them with important nutrition and physical activity information.”