Pennington Biomedical Hosts Childhood Obesity, Public Health Conference

More than 300 participants gathered Nov. 15 at the 10th Anniversary Childhood Obesity and Public Health Conference at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center. During the conference, “Making the Grade: Impact of Public Health Report Cards on Physical Activity and Obesity,” participants heard local and national speakers address the continued public health problem of childhood obesity in the United States, and most specifically, in Louisiana.

Dr. Katzmarzyk, Associate Executive Director at Pennington Biomedical, discussed the high rates of childhood obesity in Louisiana.  He pointed out that 34 percent of children in Louisiana are now considered overweight or obese according to The State of Obesity 2016 – Trust for America’s Health most recent reporting. He revealed that only 10% of children in a recent study trial, including more than 350 children from the Baton Rouge area, met the Canadian recommended guidelines for sleep, screen time, and vigorous activity in his presentation, “A Day in the Life of 10-year old Children in Baton Rouge: Physical Activity, Sleep, and Sedentary Behavior Profiles.” 

Not meeting the guidelines showed negative effects on participants health, most specifically on body mass index, body fat, triglycerides, and blood glucose levels. Other highlights from the study included data showing that most  (40-45%) of 10-year-olds only received two days of physical education classes per week, and very few walk or bike to school (less than 10%). Full study results are available at

Another speaker at the conference, Mark S. Tremblay, PhD, Director of Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research at Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Canada, emphasized the importance of outside play in reducing obesity risks. “Some parents believe that keeping children indoors with devices instead of allowing unstructured, outdoor activity time due to fear of injury is ‘safer.’ The reality is,” he pointed out, “that being inside, on your screen, is far more dangerous than anything that could happen outside.” 

Other speakers included Heidi Stanish, PhD, University of Massachusetts, Boston, “Including Children with Disabilities in Physical Activity Promotion: Overcoming Obstacles”; Dr. Shaun Kemmerly, Chief Medical Officer, Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital, “Building of Amazing”; Russell R. Pate, PhD, University of South Carolina, “Update on Physical Activity for Children and Youth”; and Thomas McKenzie, PhD, San Diego State University, “Physical Activity Promotion:  The Importance of Schools.”