A first-of-its-kind survey of pediatric waiting rooms finds that parents often give their kids junk food and sugary drinks, seemingly unaware of efforts like Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign to educate parents on the do's and don’ts of healthy eating.
While the first lady gets credit in the new junk food study from the University of Texas Medical School at Houston for making childhood obesity a national issue, the analysis shows that her message and those of similar campaigns haven’t reached the Americans the White House is most focused on: poor, minority kids.
“The question arises whether these programs are adequate to aid parental guidance,” said the new study published in the authoritative journal Clinical Pediatrics.
It looked at 738 families with children four months to 16-years-old in waiting rooms of pediatric clinics associated with the University of Texas. Over 20 percent of the parents brought snacks, 96.3 percent of which were junk food and just 3.7 percent healthy treats.
Others were suspected of offering unhealthy snacks. Explaining those not seen with junk food in the waiting room, the survey said, "Reasons may include offering food items after leaving the clinic area or completely consuming food while waiting."
Most of the junk food snacks were in the so-called “etos/itos diet” that includes Cheetos, Doritos and Fritos, said the survey, which described the treats as addictive and a major cause of childhood obesity. Healthy snacks included fruit and raw veggies.
Most in the survey were African-American and many used Medicaid. The top consumers of junk food in the waiting rooms were blacks at 66 percent, followed by Hispanics at 29 percent, and whites at 1.9 percent. No Asian family was seen with junk food.
“There was a trend toward higher body mass index of patients whose families had junk food at the visit,” added the survey.
One of the study authors, Dr. Johnnie P. Frazier, told Secrets that the first lady’s efforts should be lauded, in part because they have prompted some fast food chains to improve their offerings to children.
But, he said, “there is more to be done,” especially in the snack food industry and in educating parents on the right choices for their children.
“I believe there is more to be done in improving food choices,” said Frazier. “Snack foods basically are mostly junk foods.”Paul Bedard, The Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.