Tag Archives: schools

School lunches, obesity and causality

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Miller-McCune magazine’s Washington correspondent Emily Badger explains how a study found that the National School Lunch program is linked to youth obesity.

ozPhoto by bookgrl via Flickr

Badger takes great pains to put that finding into context, and doesn’t put forth the key causal relationship until the tenth paragraph. In the interim, she talks about the correlation between weight and school lunches, and about the methods the researchers used to tease out causation – namely, the kids’ birth weights and the type of meals they likely received at home. Only then does she deliver the kicker.

Controlling for those two factors, they found that children who participate in the school lunch program are more likely to become obese than those who don’t. In a surprising twist, though, the federally subsidized School Breakfast Program has the opposite effect. (And children who eat both school breakfast and lunch are less heavy than those who participate in neither program.)

That said, and with the caveats already out of the way before the key paragraph, Badger then explores the backwards incentives of the a la carte ice cream sandwich and why a school benefits financially from selling piecemeal junk food.

Miller McCune magazine is an effort of the nonprofit Miller-McCune Center and is dedicated to long-form, in-depth reporting on academic research.


Covering Obesity: A Guide for Reporters

Covering ObesityThe prospect of covering such a broad, engaging and important topic as obesity can be overwhelming. This guide, supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is designed to help journalists cover a wide range of stories, whether writing on deadline or researching a multipart series. It offers assistance on calculating body mass index, finding obesity statistics on the state level, gauging the quality of school district wellness policies, finding innovative school nutrition policies and much more.

Disabled student abuse goes unpunished in Nev.

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Darcy Spears, a reporter at KTNV-Las Vegas, has discovered a number of disturbing stories of teachers abusing special needs students in area schools; in some cases the districts worked to keep the details of the abuse from parents and punished offending teachers lightly, if at all. According to KTNV, there are dozens such violations reported every year.

In Part 1, Spears follows a then-5-year-old autistic boy who, when he wouldn’t eat his lunch, was violently force-fed until he vomited. Police were called, but the boy’s family still weren’t able to get an incident report until they involved legal counsel.

Despite specific Nevada laws prohibiting such actions and requiring disclosure, the incident only came to light because aides to the offending teacher reported it to school administration and local police.

Nevada law says physical restraint may not be used on a pupil with a disability unless there’s an immediate threat of physical injury to students or staff, or to protect against severe property damage.
All instances must be documented and reported to the school district and the parents.

In Part 2, Spears looks at the story of a 7-year-old autistic boy whose mother says he was abused and that the school has swept the case under the rug and a whistle-blowing special education assistant who details the abuse he’s seen take place in Nevada classrooms.


GAO report: “Seclusions and Restraints: Selected Cases of Death and Abuse at Public and Private Schools and Treatment Centers”

Site tracks schools’ conflict-of-interest policies

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

AHCJ member Peggy Noonan sent a note about a useful Web site to the organization’s electronic discussion list that is worth sharing even more widely.

The AMSA PharmFree Scorecard, from the Association of American Medical Colleges, tracks the conflict-of-interest polices at medical schools:

” … evaluates conflict-of-interest policies at the 151 medical colleges and colleges of osteopathic medicine in the United States. Using letter grades to assess schools’ performance in eleven potential areas of conflict, the Scorecard offers a comprehensive look at the landscape of conflict-of-interest policies across American medical education, as well as more in-depth assessment of individual policies that govern industry interaction with medical school faculty and trainees.”

The site features an easy-to-read chart, offers a feature that lets you compares schools’ policies, includes commentary about the schools and provides relevant links. The chart evaluates schools based on polices regarding:

  • gifts & meals
  • consulting relationships
  • industry-funded speaking relationships
  • disclosure
  • pharmaceutical samples
  • purchasing & formularies
  • site access
  • on-campus education
  • attendance at industry-sponsored lectures & meetings off-campus
  • industry support for scholarships & funds for trainees
  • medical school curriculum
  • oversight mechanism
  • explicit sanctions for noncompliance

Report spurs Atlanta vaccination reform

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

ACHJ member and Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Alison Young followed up her initial report on unvaccinated students in Atlanta schools with a story about the school districts’ resulting crackdown. Young also questioned some schools’ claims of 100 percent compliance, based on changes in the way schools counted students without required booster shots.

According to Young, the worst-offending school districts had taken significant measures to become compliant with local vaccination requirements. One district even kicked 105 students out of class on Jan. 30 for noncompliance.

A few area schools have not yet vaccinated all students, Young found. She said that a work group recently began meeting to assign roles and responsibilities for enforcing the law.

Young even discovered an internal Atlanta school district email urging vaccination compliance because of the possibility of follow-up stories in the media.

“The ‘perception in the state is that Fulton County and Atlanta have the worst immunization rates and are nonresponsive to blatant notification of violations or media scrutiny and the media is ready to write a follow-up story documenting this fact,’” a district official wrote.