Message-from-the-Director-

Message from the Director

Hello from the United Arab Emirates. I am writing this article in Dubai, where I attended the 14th International Conference on Excellence in Pediatrics. I was privileged to present information and data from the Tulane Prevention Research Center (PRC) for two different programs, on which we have been working over the last couple of years.

The first was the work of Lori Andersen, MEd, and others at the Tulane PRC, on “Factors associated with adolescent student use of school-based salad bars.” These data, collected at New Orleans schools in 2013, showed that African American students were less likely to use the salad bars (SBs) than students of other races/ethnicities. In addition, students who had a high preference for healthy foods were over two times more likely to use the SB than those with low preference, and students who encouraged their family and friends to eat fruit and vegetables were more likely to use the SB. We have a wonderful opportunity in our schools with the donation of the SB structures through the Let’s Move! initiative, but it does look like we have to get busy with more nutrition education and figure out ways to get our children to prefer healthier foods compared to non-healthy foods.

The second presentation was the work of Adrienne Mundorf, MPH, and other PRC folks, on “Qualitative assessment of the Edible Schoolyard Program in New Orleans, LA, by parents, teachers and students.” In this collaborative study with our partners at Edible Schoolyard New Orleans (ESY), students, parents, and teachers participated in focus groups where themes were experiential learning and exposure to new foods, increased student social connections and respect, modeling of healthy behaviors in the classroom, skills transfer from classroom to home, and integrated learning. The schools that participated in the study had various levels of ESY programming, and the schools that had the highest level of programming showed the most positive results. It looks like continued and expanded ESY programming in schools could go a long way to educating our children more about good nutrition and giving them the exposure (from growth, to harvest, to preparation) that is needed to increase preferences for healthy foods.

I was really surprised and gratified to see the interest in our work by physicians and other health professionals from many of the Arab countries in attendance at this conference. They are very concerned about the burgeoning problem of child and adolescent obesity in their countries with the opening and expansion of western-type fast-food outlets. It was a wonderful conference, and, as always, I am pleased to see so much interest in our PRC work.

I will end with just a few words about the city of Dubai. Today I went to the spice souk (market) in the old area of the city where I purchased some wonderful saffron and curry as well as the freshest dates I’ve ever tasted. Using new spices and herbs is a wonderful way during the holidays to add interesting and palatable tastes to old recipes. I was also delighted to see all of the Christmas decorations, singing of Christmas carols, and Christmas promotions in this Muslim city that has historically embraced religious freedom. Since I am now in a holiday mood, I would like to wish all of you the most wonderful of holiday seasons.

Carolyn C. Johnson, PhD, FAAHB
Director, Tulane Prevention Research Center

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