July 25, 2012

Media Advisory: Psychology's Essential Role in Combating Childhood Obesity to be Presented by Expert Panel

American Psychological Association’s 120th Annual Convention Spotlights Behavioral Health Strategies Targeting Most Vulnerable Populations


Leading experts will present results of the latest research and innovative strategies to improve health behaviors and prevent childhood obesity in underserved communities. Presenters will discuss examples of the highest incidence of health disparities in urban schools; the risks for childhood obesity; family and community actions to promote healthy habits and prevent pediatric obesity; how social environments contribute to childhood obesity and health inequalities; the obesity epidemic among American Indian children; and the treatment of pediatric obesity in underserved communities. 


Thursday, Aug. 2, noon to 1:50 p.m.


Session 1192, Rooms W207B and C, Level II, Orange County Convention Center


Monica J. Mitchell, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, will present Innovative Strategies to Improve Health Behaviors and Obesity in Urban Schools. Mitchell will examine challenges faced by children in urban schools and results of targeting health behaviors among students to prevent obesity as well as engaging community partners to fight obesity through school and community-based strategies. Mitchell will share results from three innovative interventions:  the “Let’s Move It!” program, which improves healthy eating in school lunch, focuses on fruits and vegetables and features the Healthy Lunches website; the Preschool Obesity Prevention Project to educate parents and support healthy preschooler behaviors; and the Kids Marathon Program, an incremental marathon that engages more than 3,000 children over 12 weeks to increase physical activity.

Barbara Fiese, PhD, professor and director of the Family Resiliency Center, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign -- Genes, Gossip, and Groceries: A contextual risk approach to childhood obesity. Fiese will discuss why childhood obesity has multiple causes. She will report on findings from a panel study of 497 families with preschool age children that used a socio-ecological approach to predicting unhealthy weight gain in the early years. Drawing from the panel survey, Fiese will discuss unhealthy weight gain and the relationship between eating fruits and vegetables and fast food based on genetic risk, mealtime routines and access to healthy foods in one’s neighborhood.

Maureen Black, PhD, professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland Medical Center -- Promoting Healthy Habits and Preventing Pediatric Obesity Through Family and Community Interventions. Black will examine why interventions rely on psychological development theories and behavior change to help low-income and ethnic/minority children, families, schools and communities adopt healthy diets and become physical active. She will highlight three community-based trials: The Toddler Obesity Prevention Study, which helps low-income parents of toddlers learn principles of behavior management without relying on food; the Challenge Project, which uses mentors to help minority adolescents set personal goals for diet and physical activity; and the Challenge in Schools Project, a multi-level health promotion/obesity prevention program focusing on sixth and seventh grade girls in 18 urban middle schools.

Tami Jollie-Trottier, PhD, clinical psychologist, Indian Health Service -- Obesity in Indian Country. Jollie-Trottier will describe risk factors contributing to obesity in American Indian children and her recent research that included 291 American Indian children and a small group of parents. She will discuss how food choice, television viewing, body image and dieting relate to obesity in this group of children. She will identify barriers to weight loss and intervention strategies for Indian communities. In addition, she will give a brief introduction to her latest research on diabetes, self-care and binge-eating behavior in American Indian adults. 

David Janicke, PhD, associate professor of pediatric psychology, University of Florida, Gainesville -- Treatment of Pediatric Obesity in Underserved Community Settings Janicke will discuss childhood obesity in rural and economically disadvantaged populations; the challenges of delivering services to these populations; and data from clinical trials examining the effectiveness of behavioral family interventions for children and families from these settings.

Roseanne L. Flores, PhD, associate professor of psychology, Hunter College of the City University of New York -- Summary and closing remarks


Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled, and today, nearly one in three children in America is overweight or obese, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Racial and ethnic minority youth raised in poor neighborhoods are at greater risk for obesity, eat fewer fruits and vegetables and are less likely to be physically active, research has revealed. Statistics predict that children and adolescents who are obese have a 70 to 80 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese as adults and developing chronic health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and stroke, according to study findings.

Research has also shown serious behavioral and mental health effects of obesity, such as: 

  • Obese youth engage in binge eating and unhealthy weight control behaviors more often than their normal weight peers. 

  • Children and youth considered obese by their peers and teachers may be subject to bias and be at a greater risk for teasing and bullying. 

  • Body dissatisfaction and weight-related concerns extend across ethnic groups and weight-related stigma has been linked with depression, low self-esteem and suicidal thoughts.

  • Monica Mitchell, PhD - (513) 803-5383

  • Barbara Fiese, PhD - (217) 333-2912

  • Maureen Black, PhD - (410) 706-2136

  • Tami Jollie-Trottier, PhD - (701) 477-8658

  • David Janicke, PhD - (352) 273-6046

  • Roseanne Flores, PhD - (212) 650-3537  

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 137,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives.