What We’re Reading – 1/13/2016

photo credits: flcikr/mo1229

photo credits: flickr/mo1229

Quality of Public Open Spaces and Recreational Walking

In a paper published by the American Journal of Public Health, researchers claim that building one high-quality local park may be more effective in promoting recreational walking than providing many average-quality parks. We think that an even better option would be providing many high quality local parks! To learn about the highest rated parks in Contra Costa County, check out our bilingual maps marking the best play spaces for young children.

Steph Curry Back Brita – Not Coke or Pepsi

You’ve probably heard of Stephen Curry: 2015 NBA MVP, perhaps the best shooter in NBA history, and public endorser of…tap water! Curry has signed an endorsement deal not with Coke, not with Pepsi, but Brita. Starting in January he will appear in TV ads, PR, and social media campaigns to endorse Brita water filters and the benefits of tap water in general. Why is this a big deal? According to a review in Pediatrics, 93% of beverages endorsed by top athletes get 100% of their calories from added sugar. HAB45’s tap water promotion policy aims to promote health, prevent childhood obesity, and support a healthy planet, and now we’ve got Curry on our side.

Candy Games Stimulate Appetite

A recent behavioral science study found that games that promote or embed food advertisements increase children’s appetites for the candy or food being promoted. In short, the advertisement works. But only 6% of the children surveyed are aware that such games are actually advertisements, even when brand names and logos are visible. Marketing unhealthy foods to consumers too young to recognize an ad is a shameful practice, and parents and caretakers are the only defense children have against companies who exploit their naiveté. Check out our Reducing Marketing of Unhealthy Foods & Beverages to Children Policy to learn more.

Posted in added sugar, parks, play, research, sports drinks, sugar sweetened beverages, tooth decay, type 2 diabetes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Meet Our Partners – John Jones

We want you to get to know the people who make HAB45 the powerful collaboration that it is. In this series, we’ll be speaking with members of our Executive Committee and other partners who bring unique perspectives on early childhood health to our table. First up is John Jones, Executive Director of the Contra Costa Child Care Council and Executive Committee Member of Healthy & Active Before 5.


What does your organization do?

We work with families to find high quality child care, and with child care providers to improve their child care business. We also assist with child care subsidies, which assist low income families to pay for child care and continue to work. Overall we’re working to make a highly early childhood-focused environment.

How did you get into your current field?

By accident! I hadn’t planned on doing non-profit work when I was in college. After I became disillusioned with the for-profit world, a friend suggested I consider working with children. I started working for a non-profit that focused on adolescents in the juvenile justice system, but I began to think that more could be done—that we could do a better job if we reached kids earlier in life. Then I started doing work for a younger population, specifically young kids with developmental disabilities. I really enjoyed my work, so only an organization with a truly great mission could get me to leave. Eventually I was asked if I’d like to interview for a position at the Child Care Council. They offered me an opportunity that was hard to refuse. Children are our greatest asset, and as a society we aren’t doing right by them. My mission is to provide children the best opportunity to do the greatest good.

22childrenareourgreatest0aasset2candasasocietywe0aarene28099tdoingrightbythem0amymissionistoprovide0-defaultWhy are you passionate about children’s public health?

Kids are at the greatest risk health-wise – there are a lot of potential hazards out there. It’s our responsibility as adults to be their safety net. Children are at high risk for just about everything. If you look at older cemeteries, you’ll realize just how risky it used to be to be a child. We’ve come a long way since the days of smallpox, but there’s still much more we could be doing for children.

What is one thing you would like to see changed or improved for children in Contra Costa County?

Access to quality health care. The care that a child receives still depends on their zip code. Every kid should have access to the highest quality health care.

Anything else you’d like to say?

The mission of HAB45 is consistent with what the county needs to create a great environment to raise kids. Contra Costa County is very much a place for people to live their entire lives, but we have to keep focusing on children. HAB45 is always thinking forward, always keeping in mind what’s best for families.

Bonus question: What is your favorite children’s book?

Green Eggs and Ham. I love that book! Even though it seems like nonsense it’s actually about getting all of us to try new things.

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What We’re Reading – 12/16/15

Photo Credit: flickr/Philippe Put

Photo Credit: flickr/Philippe Put

Physical Activity, Reading Beat Screen Time for Kids Brain Development

Researchers from the University of Alberta scrutinize television shows, electronic toys, and apps for young children for their promotion of sedentary behavior. Though the market for children’s educational media is surging, this literature review argues that they have no positive association with cognitive development – but reading and physical activity do. Fortunately, these activities are free!

Pediatrician Concerned Children are at Risk for Diabetes, Hypertension, Liver Disease

“We can’t build a culture of health without raising the value of a child in our society,” says Sandra G. Hassink, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. At a conference in Edison, New Jersey Dr. Hassink shared her thoughts on treating the growing population of young children with diseases that in the past only affected adults. She pointed to limited resources and lack of access to healthy, affordable food as major barriers to overcoming both childhood food insecurity and childhood obesity.

Choosing Worthwhile Toys for Children

Need holiday gift ideas for young children? “Outside toys that encourage physical activity are excellent choices,” says Will Sepp, a pediatrician at Intermountain Sunset Clinic. “Push-cars, balls and bicycles encourage active play and help combat childhood obesity. Always be sure the appropriate safety equipment, such as a helmet, is worn when using these toys.”  If you’re looking into DVDs, video games, or other electronic gifts, try to limit screen time to no more than two hours a day for kids two and older. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for kids under two.

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How is Berkeley’s Soda Tax Working So Far?

A review of “Higher Retail Prices of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages 3 Months After Implementation of an Excise Tax in Berkeley, California

Photo Credit: Flickr/ ericnvntr

Photo Credit: Flickr/ ericnvntr

One year ago, Berkeley became the first city in the US to pass an excise tax on sugary beverages. This 1-cent per ounce tax went into effect March 2015, and there has been some debate as to how effective it has been. HAB45 supports policies that reduce consumption of sugary beverages among young children, so we were thrilled that voters approved this measure. We’re hopeful that it will not only generate much needed funds to support nutrition programming in Berkeley, but also help to decrease the amount of sugar presented to young children.

Public health experts consistently agree that overconsumption of sugary drinks is a serious health issue. As the authors put it, “Consuming sugar sweetened beverages increases the risk of obesity, diabetes, and dental carries, and has been linked to approximately 184,000 deaths per year worldwide.”[1] In addition, sugary beverage advertising targets low-income communities and communities of color, who are then more likely to consume sugary beverages, and their health suffers for it.

Excise taxes – taxes levied on distributors, not stores or customers– have the potential to make sugary beverages go the way of the cigarette by not only deterring  purchase, but by using the collected money to fund public health and nutrition education. In this sense, Berkeley’s soda tax has already been a success –by August 2015 it generated $692,826.95 that the City will spend on health programs as advised by the Panel of Experts that the tax measure established.

It is too early to measure any decrease in obesity or diabetes in Berkeley, but we can measure the tax’s efficacy by watching the price of sugary beverages change relative to other cities. For the tax to deter purchase, consumers must “feel” the price increase. In other words, distributors must increase sugary beverage prices for retailers, who will then increase the shelf price paid by consumers. According to this study, the effectiveness of an excise tax in deterring purchase hinges on its “pass-through rate,” or the extent to which the tax is passed on to consumers through increased prices.

To determine the pass-through rate of this tax, researchers examined pre- to 3 month post-tax prices of both sugar-sweetened and non-sugar sweetened drinks (diet drinks, milk, water, and 100% fruit juice) at retailers in Berkeley and compared them to price changes in Oakland and San Francisco where there are currently no beverage taxes. If the tax is working, the prices of sugary beverages in Berkeley should have increased more than regular beverages, and they should have increased more than sugary beverages in San Francisco or Oakland. They recorded prices in low-income neighborhoods with high proportions of African-American and Latino residents  and sampled the stores that these populations are likely to frequent – stores within walking distance including convenience stores, liquor stores, and small grocery markets.

The price change of soda in Berkeley in comparison to other cities was 0.69 cents more per ounce —a pass-through rate of 69%. It may not be huge, but this means that a 20-ounce soda originally $1.75 would cost $1.89 after the tax. Overall, the pass-through was 0.47 cents per ounce for all sugar-sweetened beverages. In response to the tax, the Dollar Tree discontinued sugary beverage sales at both its Berkeley locations this January. Considering that this data was collected only three months after the tax was enacted, these results are extremely promising. The pass through rate should grow as distributors and retailers adjust to the tax, and if all goes according to plan, the purchase rate of sugary beverages will decrease as well.

For the time being, the best indicators of the tax’s success are tax dollars allocated to public health and the pass-through rate. By both of these measures, the tax is so far very successful and should continue to generate much needed funds while gradually raising prices of sugary beverages. We won’t be able to observe any health benefits of the tax for some time, but as the price of sugary beverages increases people should be less inclined to buy them, and prevalence of obesity and type II diabetes should decrease.

At Healthy & Active Before 5 we support policies that reduce consumption of sugary beverages, particularly among children ages 0-5, and we’re excited to see the long-term effects of Berkeley’s soda tax. We are in the process of determining our role in supporting local policies that limit children’s access to sugary drinks, including taxes similar to Berkeley’s that could generate revenue for early childhood obesity prevention. Read more about our stance on sugary beverages here.



  1. Falbe, Jennifer, Nadia Rojas, Anna H. Grummon, and Kristine A. Madsen. “Higher Retail Prices of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages 3 Months After Implementation of an Excise Tax in Berkeley, California.” Am J Public Health American Journal of Public Health 105.11 (2015): 2194-201. Web.
Posted in added sugar, flavored milk, juice drinks, sports drinks, success, Sugar Bites, sugar sweetened beverages, tooth decay, type 2 diabetes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment