Wellness Weekly: A Snapshot of the Top News in Wellness

Policy and Politics

An overview of relevant policy, regulatory, and political events

HHS Secretary Tom Price resigned Friday as he faced a travel scandal. On September 19, news stories broke about his use of nearly $1 million in taxpayer money for private charter and military jets.

On Tuesday, Republican leaders announced that they would not hold a vote on the Graham-Cassidy health care bill after not securing the 50 votes needed to pass the bill. Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Rand Paul (R-KY), and John McCain (R-AZ) opposed the bill. A report released last week found that the bill would have shifted funding from states that expanded Medicaid to states that refused to expand; California and New York would lose a combined $123 billion by 2026, while Texas would see an increase of $35 billion.

In DC’s Ward 7 and Ward 8, community members will be holding a “grocery walk” on October 14. During the walk, people will carry heavy bags of groceries on their heads for 2 miles to raise awareness about the lack of grocery stores and access to healthy food in their neighborhoods.


Children and Youth

Keeping the K-12 population fit and eating well

The California state legislature recently passed SB 138, otherwise known as the “Feed the Kids Act.” If signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, the bill would require schools with high poverty rates to apply to run a universal meal service program (providing free meals to all students in the school), eliminating the need for each student to submit an application for free- or reduced-price lunch. The California Department of Education suggests that an additional 500,000 students would start receiving free meals under the new process.

Schools in Fauquier County, Virginia, are updating their school lunch policies to eliminate the practice of giving lower-quality “substitute lunches” to students with persistently negative lunch balances, and instead reaching out to parents to determine the root of the problem. The district’s school board will vote on the new regulations in October, although the changes have already received support for being both more humane and more effective.

A new study from Denmark found that children who had the least amount of sleep on average were more likely to become overweight compared to other children. The researchers also observed that kids who became overweight were more likely to consume more sugary foods and drinks.

The American Academy of Pediatrics released a new report outlining how to prevent and control the spread of infectious diseases, such as chickenpox, in organized youth sports.


New Insights

Studies, new research, healthy nutrition and habits

BuzzFeed reports on the integrity of the scientific research underpinning much of the behavioral economics interventions to encourage healthy eating among children published by Brian Wansink, Director of the Cornell University Food and Brand lab. The article suggests that many of Wansink’s papers contained data inconsistencies, mathematical impossibilities, and errors. Last week, the Journal of American Medical Association retracted and replaced one of his papers.

Grocery shoppers in the South Bronx were almost twice as likely to purchase healthy items from the checkout area of a store when the checkout aisle was stocked with healthy snacks, a recent study found.

Economic downturns may reduce the amount of fruits and vegetables consumed by urban residents, a recent study found. A rise in unemployment levels corresponded with a decrease in both the number of times per day people ate fruits and vegetables, and the number of servings they consumed overall.

The UN released its annual State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report on Friday, finding that 11% of the world’s population is afflicted by hunger, indicating the first increase in world hunger in nearly a decade. The report points to conflicts and climate change as the primary drivers of the growth, and called on countries to address these problems in order to reduce world hunger.

A new study found that annual health costs for SNAP recipients were about $1,400 less than health costs for low-income people who did not participate in the program. The study supports the idea that addressing basic needs like food insecurity can improve health outcomes and reduce medical costs.

Lancet study found that individuals who met the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week had a 20% reduced risk of developing heart disease. The benefit was observed for any type of physical activity, suggesting that incorporating more physical activity into a person’s daily routine could offer health benefits.

New York University researchers suggest that increasing access to Electronics Benefits Transfer (EBT) machines at more mobile markets would increase the amount of fruits and vegetables purchased at these markets. Their study found that people using SNAP benefits at markets that have EBT machines bought about 5.4 more cups of fruits and vegetables compared to those paying with cash.

A small study from the University of Kansas suggests that exercise can help individuals increase their self-control. As individuals exercised more, they also improved their scores on self-control assessments, and the effects lasted even a month after the experiment concluded.

According to a new study80% of people using activity trackers were still using the device after 6 months. The study also found that while only 0.1% of study participants over the age of 65 used activity trackers, 90% of those older users that did use a tracker continued to use it after 6 months.


Innovative Models, Med Tech, and Wearables

Apple, Fitbit, Samsung, Verily Life Sciences, Johnson & Johnson, and Roche will be participating in the FDA’s Pre-Cert for Software Pilot, which aims to help companies rapidly develop new products while maintaining federal oversight.

The FDA approved the first-ever continuous blood monitoring device, Abbott’s Freestyle Libre Flash Glucose Monitoring System. The device is approved for individuals 18 or older with diabetes, and it does not require blood tests that require finger-pricking for samples.

Door to Door Organics, a natural and organic online grocery delivery service launched a new meal planning service as part of its website. The service simplifies the meal planning process by offering simple recipes that come with customizable boxes of organic and local produce based on customer preferences. It is first being rolled out in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions.


Philanthropic Updates and Grants

HHS announced a new challenge -- “Using Technology to Prevent Childhood Obesity in Low-Income Families and Communities” -- seeking creative, technology-based ideas to promote healthy diet and nutrition among low-income children. The agency is accepting proposals focused on promoting access to healthy, affordable food, innovative ways to increase physical activity, empowering families to achieve healthy eating practices and healthy lifestyles, and more. HHS is offering a total of $375,000 in prizes.

The Hilton Foundation is now accepting nominations for the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian prize, a $2 million medal awarded to nonprofits for contributions made to alleviate human suffering. The deadline is October 18.



Washington Post piece challenges the idea of small, organic, local farms as the only solution to the problems of our industrialized food system, arguing that small, organic farms could not supply the food needs of the country, and instead advocating for smarter production and a variety of farm sizes to remedy the ecological and health problems associated with our current system.

Bloomberg article examines strategies detailed in recently revealed emails that show how   the food industry plans to further its political agenda and cast doubt on nutritional research, through practices like funding its own research and advocacy groups, and challenging recommendations and scientific consensus.