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Monday, September 17, 2012

Doing the Math to Fight Childhood Obesity

No hope of succeeding.
Dieters often use online calorie calculators to stay true to their weight-loss plan. Translating the concept to the population health arena, researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health created the Caloric Calculator to help policymakers, school district administrators, and others assess the potential impact of health policy choices on childhood obesity.

Select a target population (middle-school-age boys, for example) and the Caloric Calculator tells you the percentage of this group who are obese (18%) and the average daily calorie cuts necessary to meet two goals: returning them to obesity levels for that population in the year 2000 and the early 1970s (109 and 237 kcal, respectively).

The user can then choose from a menu of 14 interventions: 30 minutes of daily PE time, for example, would reduce 49 kcal; eliminating one can of soda would cut an additional 136 kcal; and restricting television time by 60 minutes would cut another 106 kcal. Each time an intervention is added, the Calculator displays a graph illustrating the cumulative impact on obesity goals. In this example, both goals are met.

"While childhood obesity can sometimes seem like an insurmountable problem, there are many proven interventions that can make a difference. The Caloric Calculator shows that, when implemented in combination, they add up to what is needed," says Claire Wang, MD, ScD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Policy & Management, who led the development of the tool.

While the Caloric Calculator is geared for policymakers, it may also prove useful to parents and teachers who want to be informed about the relative merits of ways to fight childhood obesity in their community.
As if people are numerate enough for this to make a difference.

They are not.

It won't.

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