Health

Holding a conference in the state with the fifth-highest obesity rate in the U.S. only seemed fitting. 

The annual Southern Obesity Summit was this week in Louisville. Experts from across the country discussed successes in the fight against obesity and the challenges that still remain—from the foods people eat to the issues that arise from obesity.

Here are a few takeways from my time at the summit:Ja'Nel Johnson discusses takeaways from the Southern Obesity Summit

No Two Plates Are Made The Same

The University of Louisville’s Health Promotions Office  is developing its own version of USDA’s MyPlate—that is, an example of foods and portions that lead to a healthy lifestyle. Karen Newton, director of the office, said the UofL Smart Plate is being designed with young adults in mind.

The idea was met with mixed reviews at the Obesity Summit because it veers away from the Food Pyramid/MyPlate that so many people are used to. It swaps out dairy for water, fills half of the plate with vegetables, adds legumes and even directs people to “Eat Real Food.”

Here’s UofL’s version:

And here’s the USDA’s MyPlate:

The New Drink Pyramid

Dentist Laura Hancock Jones, chair of the Kentucky Oral Health Coalition, presented the New Drink Pyramid. The pyramid was developed by Dr. Nikki Stone, a dentist in eastern Kentucky, who created it to teach children and parents about healthy drinking choices. The Pyramid uses catchy phrases like “Water Whenever” and “Pop Only at Parties” so children will easily remember what to drink and when. In Eastern Kentucky, 49.7 percent of children have untreated cavities; the average number of cavities is two per child, according to a 2013 study by BMC Oral Health.

School Nutrition Is Like Assembling A Puzzle

I had the chance to chat with John Cain, a physician assistant and a Farm to School advocate, about what goes into the clear plastic boxes fed to children in schools. He broke down how breakfast is served to students and just how frustrating it can be to meet the requirements of the federal Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. He said each box must contain at least three items; each item is worth one or two points; and each box must contain a piece of fruit or fruit juice.

Things get really tricky when you consider calorie requirements and restrictions on fat, sugar and salt. Oh, and this equation has to stick to a budget—$1.

Kentuckians, Obesity and the Military

Seventy-three percent of 17 to 24-year-olds in Kentucky are ineligible for military service, according to a report by Mission: Readiness.  Causes include a lack of education or a criminal background, but, as I reported recently, the leading reason is obesity.

Retired Major General Allen Youngman, presented the report during the summit. He said while recruits don’t have to be in perfect shape when they come in, it would also be a disservice to recruits and to the military to expect people who are far from the weight restrictions to meet the requirements. Every year more than $1.5 billion is spent in obesity-related health conditions and recruitment replacements of the unfit, according to the report.

There Is Much Work To Be Done

Jasmine Hall Ratliff of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation had a great illustration that depicted the difference between health equality and health equity. She said while there have been improvements in the fight against obesity, glaring disparities still remain. Zip codes with the highest concentration of blacks have about half of the number of chain supermarkets compared to areas with the highest concentration of whites, according to the 2014 State of Obesity Report. Zip codes with the highest concentration of Latinos have only a third as many.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated  Laura Hancock Jones’ name.