Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity
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The Rudd Center Health Digest

January 2014

Rudd Center’s Revenue Calculator for Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Taxes Updated

Soda supermarketA federal excise tax of a penny per ounce on sugar-sweetened beverages would generate over thirteen billion dollars in revenue per year, according to an new estimate derived by researchers at the Rudd Center, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago. The Rudd Center has updated its Revenue Calculator for Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Taxes, an online tool which gives estimates of revenue from taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages.

According to research published in the journal Diabetes Care, sugar-sweetened beverages, such as sodas, sports drinks, sweetened teas, and fruit drinks are a major contributor to the U.S. obesity and diabetes epidemics, and the prospect of taxing these beverages has been receiving increased attention across the county.  

The Revenue Calculator is a resource for food policy makers and advocates who are considering a tax. It shows how much revenue a penny per ounce tax would raise for their state or city.  

Researchers used the most recently available public and proprietary data on beverage consumption, population, and pricing, as well as socio-demographic information on the variation in sugar-sweetened beverage consumption, to populate the updated calculator. With new data and functionality, the online tool allows users to generate expected revenue from a penny-per-ounce tax by beverage type, state, city, and year (2013-2017).

While many states have considered legislative proposals to impose sugar-sweetened beverage taxes, none has passed to date. The researchers assert that excise taxes on these beverages would generate considerable revenue for states, cities, and the nation, that could be earmarked for much-needed public health programs.

Funding for proprietary data and updating the calculator was provided in part by the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Healthy Eating Research and Bridging the Gap programs, and Voices for Healthy Kids, an initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and American Heart Association.

Collaborators on the project include the Rudd Center’s Director of Economic Initiatives, Tatiana Andreyeva, PhD; Harold Goldstein, DrPH, Executive Director, California Center for Public Health Advocacy; Frank J. Chaloupka, PhD, Professor of Economics, University of Illinois at Chicago; and Lisa Powell, PhD, Professor of Health Policy and Administration, University of Illinois at Chicago.

The calculator can be found here.  

Spring 2014 Seminar Series Scheduled 

The Rudd Center has hosted more than 100 distinguished experts in academics, advocacy, and public policy to discuss their work and its implications for the study of obesity, food policy, and weight bias.

The Spring 2014 Seminar Series will begin on February 12, with Jacob Hacker, Stanley B. Resor Professor of Political Science and Director of the Institute for Social and Policy Studies at Yale University, presenting The Politics of “Policy Feudalism”-- Why Corporate America Defers to Its Most Self- Interested Members on Food Policy and Much Else.

The seminars are located at the Rudd Center and are free and open to the public.  

Subway Restaurants Joins Forces with Michelle Obama to Promote Healthier Choices to Kids

First Lady Michelle Obama recently announced that Subway restaurants and the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) will partner in a three-year commitment to promote healthier choices to kids.

As part of its commitment, Subway will launch a series of new campaigns aimed at increasing fruit and vegetable consumption in children; set and implement new standards for marketing to kids; and improve the nutrition of its children’s menu offerings.

"Our research shows that Subway has consistently emerged as an industry leader in providing healthy meals for kids,” said Marlene Schwartz, PhD, Rudd Center Director. “This commitment is an impressive step forward in making in-store marketing consistent with nutrition standards, and promoting healthy drinks and sides at the point of purchase." 

Subway is the first and only quick service chain to join PHA, a nonprofit organization that works with the private sector to help advance the goals of Mrs. Obama’s "Let's Move" campaign.

Health Advocates Host Webinar on Local Food Policy and Preemption

The Rudd Center hosted a webinar with Ian McLaughlin, JD, Senior Staff Attorney and Program Director at ChangeLab Solutions, Ted Mermin, JD, MEd, Executive Director of Public Good Law Center, and Chris Klein, Government Affairs Director in Wisconsin, American Heart Association, about the effect of state preemption on local food policies.

The webinar discussed what preemption is, including “regulatory vacuum preemption,” how to recognize it, how it is used to fight meaningful reform, and what public health advocates can do about it.

For a link to a recording of the webinar, email roberta.friedman@yale.edu.

IASO Urges Government Action on Obesity

The International Association for the Study of Obesity (IASO) recently published an action plan for governments to tackle obesity.

The policy brief calls on governments to take a systems-wide approach to tackling obesity and to work with civil society, especially to monitor the drivers of disease and to hold all stakeholders accountable for progress. It also calls for further steps to be taken to strengthen nutrition security by protecting consumers, primarily children, from incentives to consume unhealthy products. 

The brief emphasizes government leadership and action in order to reduce preventable deaths while improving economic performance. The group of health experts calls on governments to strengthen their legislative powers so they can intervene in markets for public health purposes.

Just Published by the Rudd Center

Policy Makers, School Leaders, and Parents Should Address Food Marketing in Schools

Citing evidence showing that food and beverage marketing in schools is a public health concern, Rudd Center’s Director of Marketing Initiatives, Jennifer Harris, PhD, MBA, and Tracy Fox, MPH, RD, from Food, Nutrition & Policy Consultants, LLC, urge policy makers, school district leaders, and parents to take action, in a recent editorial published in JAMA Pediatrics.

The authors comment on a paper by Terry-McElrath and colleagues in the same issue, which quantifies food marketing in a national sample of schools and measures changes over a six-year period. They assert that the paper highlights some surprising and disturbing trends but also understates the overall picture.

Harris and Fox cite evidence that the full range of in-school marketing practices is even broader than reported and includes initiatives like branded fundraising sponsored by food companies, visits by Ronald McDonald to elementary schools to teach children about healthy eating, and ads on educational websites such as coolmath-games.com and Channel One TV.

Rudd Center research shows that a majority of parents support regulations to limit advertising and sponsorships of unhealthy foods and beverages in schools. School officials also support such regulations. However, most efforts to curb such marketing in schools rely on industry self-regulation, which has limitations, according to the authors.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently established strong nutrition standards for snack foods and beverages available in schools but the regulation does not address food marketing.

“Policy makers, school district leaders, and parents should take action to ensure that the entire food and nutrition environment in schools promotes students’ health and well-being,” say the authors. “School property should be a place where messages to young people strengthen their bodies as well as their minds.”

The Rudd Center’s parent advocate website, Rudd 'Roots Parents, offers easy-to-use tools, information, and research to help change the food marketing environment.

Weight Stigma and Physiological Stress 

Exposure to weight stigma causes physiological stress in both overweight and lean women, according to a study by the Rudd Center. The study is published online in Psychosomatic Medicine.
Previous research in the journal Obesity showed that exposure to weight stigma causes psychological stress, but this is the first study to examine the physiological impact of exposure to weight stigma.

To determine this, researchers examined alterations in salivary cortisol in 123 lean and overweight adult women. Cortisol is a hormone associated with stress and negative physical outcomes such as hypertension, insulin resistance, and other metabolic and endocrine abnormalities.

Participants viewed either a weight-stigmatizing or neutral video and were measured for salivary cortisol levels before and after completion of the video. The stigmatizing video consisted of clips from recent popular television shows and movies in which overweight and obese women were depicted in a stigmatizing manner, such as wearing ill-fitting clothing, struggling to exercise, or dancing in a comical manner. The neutral video consisted of emotionally neutral scenes such as clips about the invention of the radio, and commercials for household products and car insurance. Participants also completed a self-report survey of their mood and reactions to the video.

Those who viewed the stigmatizing video exhibited significantly greater cortisol activity when compared with those who viewed the neutral video, irrespective of weight status. Lean and overweight women who viewed the stigmatizing video were equally likely to find it upsetting and to report that they would rather not see obese individuals depicted in a stigmatizing manner in the media. 

The authors assert that this study provides evidence that exposure to weight-stigmatizing stimuli, even when not directed specifically at an individual, may contribute to negative and harmful physiological reactions. 

"Our study has implications for how obesity is portrayed in the media, and also underscores the need to remove all stigmatizing content from public health efforts related to obesity,” said lead author Natasha Schvey, clinical psychology doctoral student at Yale.

Other authors include Rudd Center’s Deputy Director, Rebecca Puhl, PhD, and Duke University’s Kelly Brownell, PhD, Dean, Sanford School of Public Policy and Professor of Public Policy, Psychology, and Neuroscience.

Implementing a Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Tax with Lessons Learned from Tobacco Control

Excise taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages have been proposed in many states as a way to reduce consumption and generate revenue. However, as policymakers increase efforts to implement a sugar-sweetened beverage tax, they often face opposition by affected businesses, through lobbying and advertising campaigns targeting the public.

In an article recently published in the American Journal of Public Health, Jennifer Pomeranz, JD, MPH, former Rudd Center Director of Legal initiatives, says that policymakers can anticipate that manufacturers will emulate the strategies used by tobacco companies in an attempt to counteract the impact of sugar-sweetened beverages.  

According to Pomeranz, policymakers should consider implementing two complementary laws—minimum price laws and prohibitions on coupons and discounting—to accomplish the intended price increase.

Pomeranz is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Health, Center for Obesity Research and Education at Temple University.

Have Fast Food Restaurants Improved their Marketing to Kids? The Rudd Center Blogs in Psychology Today

Recent developments in fast food marketing present concerns for older children and teens in particular, according to Jennifer Harris, PhD, MBA, Rudd Center’s Director of Marketing Initiatives who recently blogged in Psychology Today.

According to the Rudd Center’s Fast Food FACTS, most restaurants have shifted their internet marketing efforts toward social media and mobile marketing. Due to younger teens’ greater vulnerability to peer influence and heightened reward sensitivity, targeted use of social media and mobile apps raises numerous developmental concerns, said Harris.

While public attention has produced some improvements in unhealthy fast food marketing targeted to children 11 years and younger, parents and the public health community must demand improvements in the marketing targeted to middle school-age children, asserted Harris.

The Latest Rudd Center Podcasts

Kathryn Henderson, PhD
Former Rudd Center Director of Community and School Initiatives
From Policy to Practice: Implementation of Water Policies in Child Care Centers in Connecticut

Podcast provided by the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior

The Rudd Center’s extensive library of podcasts is available for download on iTunes.

Front Burner News

Food Companies Cut Calories

Sixteen leading food and beverage companies sold 6.4 trillion fewer calories in the U.S. in 2012 compared to 2007, according to an independent study commissioned by the Robert Wood Johnson foundation. Read more.

USDA Relaxes Rules in School Lunch Program 

The USDA has permanently loosened the limits on how much meat and grains can make up school lunch menus, giving food service directors more flexibility in meeting the requirements of the National School Lunch Program. Read more.

Adolescent Obesity Linked to Family Income and Education 

Obesity among teens in the U.S. has begun to level out, but not among adolescents in low-income families or whose parents have only a high school education, according to a study of two long-term national surveys - the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and the National Survey of Children's Health. Read more.

Americans are Eating Healthier

American adults are increasingly consulting food labels, and eating less fat and more fiber, according to a new report from the USDA's Economic Research Service. Read more

Diabetes is Top Concern for U.S. Latinos 

Diabetes is the health issue that Latinos report as the most concerning for them and their families — whether they were born in the U.S. or immigrated here, according to a survey by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health. Read more.

Using Anti-Smoking Tactics to Solve Obesity

New guidelines from the National Obesity Forum suggest that anti-obesity campaigns should be “harder hitting,” like anti-tobacco campaigns in the U.K. However, this concept is debatable, and researchers are still searching for the most effective way to improve health. Read more.

Fat Shaming in the Media Backfires 

The media’s focus on the obesity epidemic may backfire if it presents overweight people in a critical and judgmental light, according to a study by researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Read more

The Economics of Obesity

John Cawley, who directs Cornell University’s Institute on Health Economics, Health Behaviors & Disparities, has put together a list of facts about the economics of obesity for a general audience in the latest issue of the National Bureau of Economics Research Reporter. Read more.  

Fast Food is Only Part of an Unhealthy Food Environment 

Childhood obesity is caused by a number of unhealthy factors in our current food environment, not just fast food consumption, according to a study by researchers at the University of North Carolina. Read more.  

VOICES

Government’s Role in Obesity Crisis

The government should play a pivotal role in addressing the obesity crisis, according to Harold Goldstein, DrPH, Executive Director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy and Jeff Ritterman, MD, Vice President of the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility. Read more.

Athletes Should be Ashamed of Endorsing Unhealthy Foods

Miami Heat basketball player Lebron James should be ashamed of making money by endorsing unhealthy products like Sprite and McDonald’s, according to Peter Ubel, Physician and Researcher at Duke University. Ubel wants celebrities and athletes to use their power to make the world a better place, not an unhealthy place. Read more.

California Policymakers may try again to Tax Sugar-Sweetened Beverages 

With Mexico having recently passed a soda tax and more research supporting the idea in the U.S., California policymakers may try again to tax sugar-sweetened beverages in the effort to discourage consumption, reduce obesity, and raise money, according to George Lauer, California Healthline Features Editor. Read more.

Hidden Health Costs of Cutting SNAP

Rob Waters, the Prevention Institute’s Chief Communications Officer, blogs in Forbes about a study recently published in the journal Health Affairs which reveals the hidden health costs of cutting the federal food assistance program. Read more

SUGAR-SWEETENED BEVERAGES/TAXES

Conflicts of Interest Bias Sugary Drink and Obesity Research 

Studies whose authors have financial links to the food industry are five times as likely to report no association between consuming sugary drinks and weight gain as studies whose authors report no such conflict of interest, according to an analysis in the December issue of PLOS Medicine. Read more.  

California Soda Tax Could Save Hundreds of Millions in Medical Costs

A proposed tax on sugary drinks in California could save hundreds of millions of dollars in medical costs and reduce new cases of diabetes by tens of thousands, according to a study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco. Read more.

Food Activist Files Complaint against Gatorade  

Nancy Huehnergarth, a food activist and blogger for civileats.com, has filed a complaint with the New York State Attorney General against Gatorade sports drink for what she says is a deceptive viral advertising campaign that calls water "the enemy of performance." Read more

Mexico Soda Tax Re-Ignites U.S. Debate 

Many states and cities in the U.S. have attempted to enact soda taxes via ballot initiatives or through legislation over the past several years, but all have failed. However, health advocates predict there will be resurgence in state and local action if Mexico’s new soda tax reduces consumption. Read more.  

FOOD MARKETING

Food Marketing Common in Schools

Most children and teenager in the U.S. go to schools that have partnerships with food and drink companies, according to a study recenly published in JAMA Pediatrics. Read more.