Wellness Weekly: A Snapshot of the Top News in Wellness

Policy and Politics

An overview of relevant policy, regulatory, and political events

Federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) ran out at the end of September, and despite bipartisan support, Congress has yet to reauthorize it. Anxious about the standstill, almost a dozen states including Virginia and Minnesota are sending letters warning about the deficiency of CHIP funds.  The funds serve nearly 9 million children and 370,000 pregnant women from low-income households who do not qualify for Medicaid.

The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service announced that they will halt implementation of the controversial salt standards passed by the Obama Administration for school lunches. The targets for sodium levels will remain no more than 1,230 mg per meal for elementary, 1,360mg for middle, and 1,420 mg for high schools through 2019. While critics argue that the standards are necessary to improve children’s health, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue contends that children do not eat the healthier, lower-sodium meals.

In Multnomah County, Oregon (which includes Portland), the Coalition for Healthy Kids & Education delayed a proposed ballot measure that would impose a 1.5-cents-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages from May 2018 to November 2018. The coalition believes greater voter turnout in November would make the measure likely to pass. If passed, the tax is expected to generate more than $28.4 million per year and would be used to fund early childhood education programs and programs that promote healthy eating and physical activity for children.


Children and Youth

Keeping the K-12 population fit and eating well

The American Academy of Pediatricians recently released guidelines to reduce stigma and discrimination against children considered overweight or obese. The guide, developed in partnership with the Obesity Society, encourages pediatricians to use words like “weight” and “body mass index” rather than “fat,” discuss bullying and discrimination during doctor’s visits, and empower parents to combat stigma at home and school.

A new study found that stressed or depressed parents were less likely to provide homemade meals for dinner, and were also more likely to pressure their children to clean their plates. Although the experiment was small and not controlled, the results suggest a link between parents’ mood and mental health on what their children eat.

The New England Journal of Medicine published a report projecting that nearly 60% of children will be considered obese by age 35 based on current trends. The report also estimates that three out of four 2-year-olds that are currently considered obese will remain so through adulthood. 

This week, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced a ban of fast-food restaurants within 400 meters of schools in an effort to curb childhood obesity in the city. The ban will take effect in the fall of 2019.


New Insights

Studies, new research, healthy nutrition and habits

Cornell University is investigating the controversial work of Brian Wansink, the Director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab who has been under scrutiny over the past year. At least 50 of the professor’s papers have been called into question, and Wansink has retracted four articles and submitted at least 8 corrections. In a previous investigation into his four papers about pizza consumption, Cornell found errors in data handling and statistical analysis, but noted that the evidence did not indicate scientific misconduct.

A new study found that an AI-enabled coaching program helped type 2 diabetes patients lose more than 2% of their baseline weight and increase their healthy meal consumption by 31%. This study adds to the research on AI’s role in health care and demonstrates that an AI coach can provide care that fosters promising results relating to weight loss, healthy choices, and diabetes management.

According to recent CDC data, adults in the U.S. are not consuming the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables, with only 12% eating 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit and 9% eating 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day. Young adults reportedly consume the lowest amount of vegetables, compared to all other age groups. 

The results of an 18-year study demonstrate that elderly people who were moderately inactive were 14% less likely to experience a cardiovascular event, compared to seniors who were completely inactive. This data suggests that engaging in any form of exercise, including walking or gardening, could improve the cardiovascular health of older individuals. 


Innovative Models, Med Tech, and Wearables

Nomad, a health care technology company, launched an online job marketplace to connect doctors to telemedicine opportunities. Nomad hopes this platform will adjust to the Millennial concept of working remotely and will hopefully help to alleviate and reduce the estimated doctor shortage.

A new study found that the Apple Watch accurately detected hypertension 82% of the time and sleep apnea 90% of the time. Based on this data, Cardiogram, creator of the heart tracking app for Apple Watch, predicts that wearables could become a cost-effective way to screen for hypertension and sleep apnea.

The New York City Food Assistance Collaborative launched a new app called Plentiful, which allows people to book appointments at local food pantries and receive updated reminders, eliminating the need to wait in line. The app is available in multiple languages on any Android device and can also send text messages to any SMS-capable phone. The app helps food pantries space out their appointments and their stock throughout the month, which also improves the walk-in process for clients without access to a phone.

Healthcare IT News reports that tech giants Apple and Amazon are both working on ways to enter the electronic health record (EHR) market. Apple has been working on applications that stores health records on the iPhone and designing patents for an electronic device that collects sensor data.


Philanthropic Updates and Grants

California Dairy Families and the San Francisco 49ers NFL team awarded a $10,000 grant to Olinder Elementary School in San Jose, CA to increase access to nutrition and physical activity programs. The “Hometown Grant” through the Fuel Up to Play 60 program encourages youth to fuel up on healthy foods and get 60 minutes of physical activities per day.

The Magic Johnson Foundation and UnitedHealthcare partnered to host three “Holiday Hope” events in Michigan, providing families with food, coats, toys, holiday trimmings and essential living items. Almost 5,000 families participated in events held in Detroit, Flint, and Lansing. This is the fourth year that the organizations have sponsored the event.



The New York Times profiles the emerging trend of vegan cooking among black Americans. Similarly, Bleacher Report covers how an increasing number of NBA players are eating plant-based diets.

A Colorado-based startup is developing lab-grown meat for pets.