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Experts Gather to Brainstorm Ways to Improve Teens' Nutrition

Wednesday, June 6, 2001

Local and national experts will gather at the University of Rochester Medical Center for an all-day brainstorming session Thursday, June 7, to discuss ways to improve adolescent nutrition and address problems such as obesity and eating disorders.Participants include dietitians, nutritionists, food service directors, nurses, health educators, social workers, psychologists, health care professionals, athletic directors and coaches. They will discuss national goals and objectives for adolescent nutrition and physical activity, and identify resources and successful programs to promote healthful eating and physical activity.Participants will also be asked to identify key concerns - including obesity, disordered eating, vegetarianism, supplementation, demands of sports, pregnancy and oral health - and describe how health care providers can help."Although adolescents lead busy lives, they may not be as active as they were in the past," says Richard Kreipe, M.D., chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Children's Hospital at Strong. "On average, teens spend more than four hours a day in front of a TV or computer screen. As a nation, we seem to have lost proper perspective and balance with respect to what healthful eating and activity are all about. We'll address these issues and possible solutions to these problems at this conference."A specific concern is a phenomenon known as the Female Athlete Triad, a condition that begins with disordered eating, such as skipping a meal to make up for eating too much chocolate. It can progress to more serious practices such as restricting food intake, occasional binging and purging, or full-blown anorexia or bulimia."The Female Athlete Triad affects as many as 62 percent of physically active young girls," says Karen Sossin, M.S., C.D.N., project director for the Female Athlete Triad Awareness and Prevention Program."Awareness of the role that disordered eating has on physical and academic performance is essential in the prevention of the devastating and irreversible effects of the Female Athlete Triad," Sossin adds.Poor adolescent nutrition can change lives in a serious way. For example, obesity in adolescents has doubled during the last 10 years, resulting in a sharp increase in Type II diabetes in children"We can all make a difference, but to do so involves understanding each young person's perspective, listening to them," says Susan Travis, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., of Cornell University's Division of Nutritional Sciences, one of the organizations taking part in the conference. "This gathering will increase our understanding of the factors that affect eating and exercise behavior of adolescents and ultimately enhance our skills."The keynote address - titled "National Goals, Trends, and Effective Strategies for Adolescent Health" - will be given by Wiliam Dietz, M.D. Dietz is director of the Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity in the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On June 6, the day before the conference, Dietz will give another talk titled, "Public health interventions to combat the rising epidemic of childhood obesity."Another well-respected national leader attending the conference is Thomas Wadden, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, where he is also director of the Weight and Eating Disorders Program. Wadden's principal research is about the treatment of obesity by interventions that have included behavior modification, nutrition, exercise, and medication."The nutritional needs of adolescents are very different now than they were even 10 years ago," says Nellie Wixom, R.D., director of Strong Healthy Families, a weight management program for adolescents created by Children's Hospital at Strong. "It's a reflection of our rapidly changing society. Adolescence is a key time to address these lifestyle issues. This conference will have a positive impact on how practitioners influence adolescents' behaviors with regard to eating and physical activity."

The conference is sponsored by the University of Rochester's Leadership Education in Adolescent Health program, the New York State Nutrition Council, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Dairy Council, and Cornell University Dietetics Program.

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