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Winter/Spring 2003 Vol. 3 No. 1



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BRIEF TAKES


Preventing Obesity in America's Children

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People used to distinguish between "juvenile diabetes" and "adult-onset diabetes," but about six years ago, these monikers were scrapped in favor of more generic labels -- "type 1" and "type 2" diabetes. Part of the reason is that the form of the disease that once occurred mostly in adults over age 50 is now showing up in teens and even preteens. The principal suspect behind the rise of type 2 diabetes in children is the growing waistline of America's youth.

In the early 1970s, only 4 percent of children between 6 and 11 and 6 percent of those ages 12 through 19 were overweight. By 2000, the numbers had more than doubled, with 15 percent of children and teens carrying excess pounds.

Research shows that overweight children are at risk for serious health problems, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Signs of these disorders are becoming increasingly evident even before these children reach adulthood. According to one report, about 60 percent of children ages 5 to 10 who are overweight or obese already have at least one cardiovascular disease risk factor, such as elevated total cholesterol levels or higher blood pressure, and 25 percent have two or more. Data suggest that 70 percent of overweight children will remain so as adults, with all the attendant risks for greater health problems and earlier mortality.

In 2001, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a call to action to prevent and decrease overweight and obesity in the United States. The next step is development of specific strategies. Recognizing the need for greater attention directed to children and youth, Congress requested that the Institute of Medicine develop an action plan targeted specifically at the prevention of obesity among youngsters. The study committee, whose work got under way this winter, is assessing the factors responsible for the increasing prevalence of obesity in children and youth and identifying the most promising methods for prevention, including interventions and policies, as well as research opportunities. Its report is slated for release in mid-2004.   -- Christine Stencel

(See listing in New Projects & Publications for more information.)


The New M.O. of Business

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With the demise of the dot.com boom and predictions of hitting bottom in the business cycle, people have begun to question whether the "New Economy" is still alive and well. The short answer is that its pulse can indeed be felt across all sectors of today's marketplace. The wide-ranging application of advanced communications technology, the cornerstone of the New Economy, continues to change and enrich the way we work, live, and play.

Semiconductors and computers are the source of unprecedented gains that have fostered services like new means of communication, more efficient trucking, and more and better choices for consumers through online shopping. These technologies are exceptional in that they benefit from constantly falling costs and dramatically improved performance. But all too often, policy-makers know little about how these advances actually impact the economy. A National Research Council committee is working to shed more light on the area.

The committee is reviewing and identifying key issues regarding the measurement, development, and growth of the New Economy, as well as technologies that underpin its expansion. The roles of academia, government, and industry in sustaining its growth also are being explored. A final report is expected next year.   -- Vanee Vines

(See listing in New Projects & Publications for more information.)



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Copyright 2003 by the National Academy of Sciences