Meet Our Partners – Dr. Diane Dooley

We want you to get to know the people who make Healthy & Active Before 5 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. Today we’re speaking with Diane Dooley, MD, MHS, FAAP. Dr. Dooley is a Pediatrician with Contra Costa Health Services.


What do you and/or your organization do?

I work for Contra Costa County Health Services, which provides health services to low income people throughout the county. Within that, the organizations that I work for are the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center and Health Centers – the locations where many people receive healthcare – and I see patients at the Concord Health Center. I’m also a pediatrician at Contra Costa Health Plan, the agency that provides health insurance to low-income people in Contra Costa, where I work with families to help them raise healthy children. Most of the patients I see are Spanish-speaking, low-income residents. As a Quality Physician for Contra Costa Health Plan, I work on improving our health care system for these patients.

How did you get into your current field?

My dad was a doctor, but initially I wasn’t too interested in becoming one myself because he worked all the time. However, I went to Stanford, majored in Human Biology, and realized that since I was very interested in people and medicine, it would be best for me to pursue a medical degree. It was a big decision because at that point in time, only 15% of medical students were women. Before medical school, I did a fellowship with the UCSF Health Policy Program. It was during that time that the policy aspect of health and medicine became a focus of my career.

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

I’d really like to see families with children better-off economically. I’d also like for there to be more affordable programs for children so that even if their families don’t have the money, they can attend an after-school program or quality childcare. During the summers and after school, so many children just sit at home and don’t get to participate in the activities that their more well-off peers do.

What do you like about being a part of Healthy & Active Before 5? 

I was a founding member of Healthy & Active Before 5, which something I’m very proud of. As a mother of three daughters, a pediatrician, and past school board member, I have seen how important it is to give kids a good start in life.

I really enjoy working with the staff and Executive Committee. It’s great to be part of an organization that is well-run and focused on helping kids, and everyone works well together to make amazing things happen for children in Contra Costa.  I’m particularly proud of how organizationally sound HAB45 is. Our leadership structure facilitates discussion, yet allows things to move ahead. We’ve hired the right people, and because of that we’ve been able to do remarkable things.

Anything else you’d like to say?

I have two grandkids, and it has been interesting for me to witness how much nutritional advice has changed and improved since my children were young, particularly the advice around breastfeeding. When I first started in pediatrics, there wasn’t the emphasis on breastfeeding like there is today — we delay starting infants on food for much longer now. When my kids were little, they didn’t have nearly the amount of exposure to marketing for unhealthy foods or the foods themselves. Today’s families have to do so much more to keep children away from that path. In general people are much more cautious with their children than they were in the past, and families are hesitant to take kids to play at the park. Some of this fear is justified, but the result is that kids aren’t given the opportunities to go outside and play like they were in the past. For all of these reasons, I’m truly excited to see how HAB45’s programs will impact the children of Contra Costa County.

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What We’re Reading – 4/13/16

Photo credits: (flickr/ramsey beyer)

Photo credits: (flickr/ramsey beyer)

San Francisco Approves Fully Paid Parental Leave

On Tuesday, April 5th 2016, San Francisco became the first city in the United States to approve six weeks of fully paid parental leave. All new parents are included: mothers, fathers, and same-sex couples who bear or adopt a child. Though California law already guarantees a six-week leave at 55% pay, San Francisco’s new law mandates full pay starting January 1st, 2017.

There are many reasons to support this decision, and in particular, we’re excited to see that San Franciscan parents will have the time and support necessary to breastfeed their babies. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends mothers breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of their baby’s life, but this is nearly impossible when working parents are not guaranteed their income after welcoming a new additions to their families. Congratulations from across the bay, San Francisco!

Fruit juice isn’t much better for you than soda. Let’s stop pretending otherwise.

Sales of sugary, carbonated beverages have been steadily declining in the United States for years, but unfortunately it seems we’ve been getting our added-sugar fix elsewhere. According to the Harvard School of Public Health/Nutrition Source, a typical 12 ounce cranberry juice cocktail has 12 teaspoons of sugar and provides 200 calories! And according to a study published in BMJ Open, the average American’s two main sources of added sugars are soft drinks (17%) and juice drinks (14%). Even pure fruit juices with no added sugars should be consumed sparingly if at all, especially for toddlers, as these drinks still contain a large dose of sugar.

This article summarizes our opinions on juice succinctly: “We should think of juice as soda without the fizz.”

Restaurant kids’ meals make nutrition strides, but leave room for improvement

A new study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior has found that despite voluntary changes to kids’ menus, many of the restaurant meals marketed as being “for kids” are still alarmingly high in fat and sodium. Researchers examined both quick- and full-service restaurants that offer children’s menus and compared them to national dietary recommendations. The results show that less than one-third of children’s meal combinations at quick service restaurants and one-quarter at full service restaurants met the national recommendations for fat, saturated fat, sodium, and calories. The study’s lead author Dr. Sarah Sliwa reports that she and her team are encouraging restaurants to “look holistically at the nutritional value of their children’s meals, and to market healthier options in ways that emphasize taste and appeal to parents and children alike.”

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An Incredible Resource – County Health Rankings and Roadmaps

This month, County Health Rankings & Roadmaps (A Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Program) released the 7th iteration of its County Health Rankings database. This is an excellent tool for local communities to explore health data for their county and use it to prioritize and coordinate health improvement efforts.

How does Contra Costa County fare in comparison to the rest of California? Out of 57 counties, Contra Costa ranks:

  • 18th in overall health outcomes (quality & length of life),
  • 24th in quality of life
  • 12th in social & economic factors, and
  • 6th in physical environment (water & air quality, housing, and transit)

The tool also provides a look at the percentages of county residents for whom certain variables and descriptors apply. For example:

  • 14% of children under 18 live in poverty
  • 6% of children under 19 are insured, and
  • 13% of all residents are food-insecure

We and many other health organizations agree childhood obesity is a complex public health problem, with many different factors contributing to it. With data like this at our disposal, we can allocate our resources towards the factors that most significantly impact children 0-5. This is a rich data source and a great resource for local organizations – we encourage you to take a look at your county and see how it ranks on the issues most important to you!

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What We’re Reading – 3/23/16

Photo Credits: (flickr/eddie welker)

Photo Credits: (flickr/eddie welker)

More Expensive Soda? Lawmakers want to Tax Sugary Drinks

Democratic Assemblymen Richard Bloom of Santa Monica and Jim Wood of Healdsburg have proposed a “health impact fee” of 2 cents per ounce on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California.The proposal by would add 24 cents to 12-ounce soft-drink cans, to be charged at the distributor level.

According to the Los Angeles Times, “The more than $2 billion expected to be raised each year under the tax would be given to counties, cities, community-based organizations and licensed clinics to create and maintain obesity and diabetes prevention programs. The money would also go toward providing safe drinking water and creating oral health programs.”

DeLauro to Announce Anti-Obesity Legislation

This month, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro announced the reintroduction of the Stop Subsidizing Childhood Obesity Act. If passed, the bill would amend the IRS Tax Code to eliminate tax deductions for advertising directed at children that promotes food and drink of “poor nutritional quality”. The secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Institute of Medicine would define what food and brands are considered to be of poor nutritional quality. Revenue generated by the elimination of the deduction would fund the USDA’s “Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program,” which provides a fresh fruit or vegetable snack to all students at participating schools.

The case for breastfeeding: what skeptics miss when they call it overrated

This essay published by Vox addresses the growing number of people who claim that breastfeeding is oversold, overhyped, and that its benefits are not backed up by scientific research. This paragraph summarizes the frustration that breastfeeding advocates experience constantly:

“This backlash misses a crucial point: that the public health push for breastfeeding is designed to eliminate health disparities between the rich and poor and create, at least in early infancy, a semblance of equality in health. Breastfeeding promotion is working and shouldn’t be curbed because middle-class parents are tired of hearing it. The most frequently cited challenges associated with breastfeeding include pain, supply issues, work-related pumping issues, and lack of support.”

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