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How state and local governments can address the obesity epidemic
Date:5/9/2013

With simple and innovative measures, public agencies at state and local levels can play a significant role in promoting healthier eating habitssteps that could make a difference in curbing the nation's obesity epidemic. One effective option, according to researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, is requiring restaurants to include calorie counts on menus, along with the physical activity equivalents required to burn off a meal. The researchers, who examined studies on calorie labeling and regulatory options available to local governments, offer several recommendations to enhance the effectiveness of menu labeling. The suggestions are especially applicable to chain restaurants with fewer than 20 locations, a category that represents more than half of the restaurants in the U.S. These eateries are not subject to the federal Affordable Care Act's menu- labeling provision. It requires chain restaurants with more than 20 locations to provide calorie information on their menus and menu boards, as well as a statement addressing daily recommended caloric intake. The findings are featured in a Perspective in the May 9 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

"The current standard is for restaurant menu boards to present information as the absolute number of calories, such as telling customers that a hamburger has 450 calories. If customers do not understand what 450 calories means or how it fits into their overall daily requirements, posting that information on menu boards may not be that useful," said Sara N. Bleich, PhD, lead author of the Perspective and an associate professor with the Bloomberg School's Department of Health Policy and Management. "All of the recent research suggests that if you make calorie information easy for consumers to understand you have a bigger impact on their purchasing behavior. This is particularly true for minority groups at higher risk for obesity since they often have lower than average
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Contact: Natalie Wood-Wright
nwoodwri@jhsph.edu
410-955-6878
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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