ASPPH logo


School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

Columbia’s Initiatives on Obesity Prevention

Mailman School faculty continues to generate scientific knowledge on obesity through the schoolwide Obesity Prevention Initiative which puts a special emphasis on prevention. Dr. Y. Claire Wang, associate professor of Health Policy and Management, and Dr. Andrew Rundle, associate professor of epidemiology, lead this initiative with a goal of producing position papers and a vision for more effective strategies for obesity prevention. A symposium titled  “ A Smart Start: Preventing Childhood Obesity” is scheduled for April. Other upcoming events include a Grand Rounds talk by nutrition expert Dr. Marion Nestle and one on the social epidemiology of eating by the author of Why Diets Fail. Read more about the Obesity Prevention Initiative on the Mailman School website.

Columbia Team Named Charter Members of First AIA Design and Health Research Consortium

The American Institute of Architects (AIA), the AIA Foundation, and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA), recently named the Mailman School of Public Health and Graduate School of Architecture as charter members of the AIA Design & Health Research Consortium, which will help fund basic research on how design affects public health; the Columbia Team will be focusing on how urban design can support physically active lifestyles.

Read more on the announcement and a Scientific American article.

Neighborhood Park Features Associated with Body Mass Index
The size and cleanliness of a neighborhood park has a strong association with the body mass index (BMI) of the neighborhood’s residents, according to research by Dr. Andrew Rundle, Dr. Gina Lovasi, and colleagues. Findings are published online in the journal Preventive Medicine.

Teens Who Average Six Hours of Sleep a Night More Likely to Be Obese
Teenagers who get an average of six hours sleep a night are 20 percent more likely to be obese by the age of 21, compared to their peers who get eight or more hours of sleep, according to a study led by Dr. Shakira Suglia that was published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Obesity-Attributable Absenteeism Among U.S. Workers Costs the Nation More than $8 Billion
A study by Dr. Claire Wang shows that obesity costs the U.S. $8.65 billion per year as a result of absenteeism in the workplace. The study is the first to provide state-level estimates of obesity-attributable costs of absenteeism. Findings are in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Taking Antibiotics During Pregnancy Increases Risk for Child Becoming Obese
Children who were exposed to antibiotics in the second or third trimester of pregnancy had a higher risk of childhood obesity at age 7. The research led by Dr. Andrew Rundle also showed that for mothers who delivered their babies by a Caesarean section, whether elective or non-elective, there was a higher risk for obesity in their offspring. Read more in theInternational Journal of Obesity.

Hispanic Immigrant Women’s Perspective on Healthy Foods
Faculty led in-depth interviews to gather data on Hispanic immigrant women’s perspectives on healthy food and local neighborhood food access. Having a farmer’s market in their residential neighborhood was linked with significantly higher consumption of fruits and vegetables. Hear NPR’s Latino USA coverage here, and Read the research paper here.

Nutrition Intervention Led to Sustained Dietary Behavior Changes Among Latina Breast Cancer Survivors
Dr. Heather Greenlee, assistant professor of epidemiology, and colleagues in partnership with the not-for-profit Cook for Your Life initiative published the results of an intervention designed to provide Latina breast cancer survivors with the knowledge and skills needed to change and sustain dietary behaviors. The Cook For Your Life program helps survivors, who are at higher risk of obesity and low physical activity, adhere to recommended guidelines to eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables using a culturally based hands-on educational approach. The participants increased their number of fruits and vegetables servings to 6.8 per day and also lost 2.5 percent of their body weight. Read more and link for journal paper.

Markers of Obesity and Cardiovascular Risk

Dr. Ryan Demmer, associate professor of epidemiology, collaborated on research linking the markers of obesity to subclinical cardiovascular risk, as well as research regarding the role of the oral microbiome in cardiometabolic risk. Two recent papers are: “Periodontal Infection, Impaired Fasting Glucose and Impaired Glucose Tolerance: “ and “Periodontal Infection and Cardiorespiratory Fitness in Younger Adults.”

“First Steps to Healthy Living” Team Assesses Health Behaviors and Obesity Rates of Children Enrolled in NY State WIC Nutrition Program
Research by the “First Steps to Healthy Living” team, led by Dr. Sally Findley, professor of population and family health and sociomedical sciences, Dr. Mary Ann Chiasson, department of epidemiology and Dr. Jackson Sekhobo, Bureau of Nutrition, New York State Department of Health, looks into relations between eating behaviors, activity patterns, and obesity rates among infants and toddlers enrolled in the NY State WIC program.  Findings from two rounds of surveys at WIC sites statewide show that adopting the WIC-recommended lifestyle changes of breastfeeding, delayed introduction of solid foods and reduced screen time contributed to reducing sweets and sweetened drink consumption.

The “First Steps to Healthy Living” has just completed the last round of statewide surveys, supported by a grant from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Dr. Findley and colleagues will use these survey data as well as focus group data and NYS WIC data to produce a series of manuscripts over the next six months on early childhood obesity.