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The Social Ecological Model (SEM) has been used to describe the aetiology of childhood obesity and to develop a framework for prevention. The current paper applies the SEM to data collected at multiple levels, representing different layers of the SEM, and examines the unique and relative contribution of each layer to children’s weight status.
Cross-sectional survey of randomly selected households with children living in low-income diverse communities.
A telephone survey conducted in 2009–2010 collected information on parental perceptions of their neighbourhoods, and household, parent and child demographic characteristics. Parents provided measured height and weight data for their children. Geocoded data were used to calculate proximity of a child’s residence to food and physical activity outlets.
Analysis based on 560 children whose parents participated in the survey and provided measured heights and weights.
Multiple logistic regression models were estimated to determine the joint contribution of elements within each layer of the SEM as well as the relative contribution of each layer. Layers of the SEM representing parental perceptions of their neighbourhoods, parent demographics and neighbourhood characteristics made the strongest contributions to predicting whether a child was overweight or obese. Layers of the SEM representing food and physical activity environments made smaller, but still significant, contributions to predicting children’s weight status.
The approach used herein supports using the SEM for predicting child weight status and uncovers some of the most promising domains and strategies for childhood obesity prevention that can be used for designing interventions.
To evaluate five popular fast-food chains’ menus in relation to dietary guidance.
Menus posted on chains’ websites were coded using the Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies and MyPyramid Equivalents Database to enable Healthy Eating Index-2005 (HEI-2005) scores to be assigned. Dollar or value and kids’ menus and sets of items promoted as healthy or nutritious were also assessed.
Five popular fast-food chains in the USA.
Full menus scored lower than 50 out of 100 possible points on the HEI-2005. Scores for Total Fruit, Whole Grains and Sodium were particularly dismal. Compared with full menus, scores on dollar or value menus were 3 points higher on average, whereas kids’ menus scored 10 points higher on average. Three chains marketed subsets of items as healthy or nutritious; these scored 17 points higher on average compared with the full menus. No menu or subset of menu items received a score higher than 72 out of 100 points.
The poor quality of fast-food menus is a concern in light of increasing away-from-home eating, aggressive marketing to children and minorities, and the tendency for fast-food restaurants to be located in low-income and minority areas. The addition of fruits, vegetables and legumes; replacement of refined with whole grains; and reformulation of offerings high in sodium, solid fats and added sugars are potential strategies to improve fast-food offerings. The HEI may be a useful metric for ongoing monitoring of fast-food menus.
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