Month: February 2018

Duke Research Shows Childhood Obesity Increasing

On Monday, Duke researchers released a paper in the journal Pediatrics documenting their findings on childhood obesity in the United States, and the results are alarming.

Despite a host of programming to combat things like sedentary lifestyles and poor eating habits, childhood obesity continues unabated, with a worrisome increase in severe obesity for 2 to 5 year olds. Analyzing data from the Center for Disease Control’s annual National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), Duke and Wake Forest University researchers also identified disparities along racial/ethnic lines with African American and Hispanic children experiencing higher rates of obesity than their White and Asian American peers.

The current findings run counter to previous reports that childhood and adolescent obesity had stabilized or even decreased in recent years. It also suggests that current efforts to combat obesity are insufficient and may only be impacting specific areas of the country. Associate professor of population health sciences and lead researcher on the analysis, Asheley Skinner, put the findings into perspective: “Obesity in the youngest group is a concern…because when obesity starts younger, most of these children continue to have obesity throughout childhood and into adulthood.” In the long term, the implications of such trends range from increasing medical costs for concomitant diseases such as diabetes or high blood pressure to decreasing life expectancy.

The Duke Team that collaborated on the recent report works out of Duke’s Center for Childhood Obesity Research, established in January 2017 under the Department of Pediatrics. Of particular interest is the Center’s stated goal to translate original research into policy change “by collaborating with legislators and key decision-makers and providing them with expertise and advice.”


Duke’s Drones helping DoD

Duke researchers from the Nicholas School of the Environment’s marine lab recently won funding for a project that will help the Department of Defense (DoD) use drones to improve land management practices. The Marine Robotics & Remote Sensing Lab specializes in the use of drones, also known as Unmanned Aviation Vehicles (UAVs), to inform marine science and conservation. From counting grey seals in Canada to mapping the North Carolina coast before and after hurricanes, the applications for UAVs are myriad.

For this newest project, researchers at Duke received nearly $1 million from the U.S. DoD to understand how commercial drones with high-resolution imaging can help land managers monitor the effects of storm erosion, amphibious training, and prescribed burns on training facilities along the coast. In particular, the project aims to help integrate UAVs into monitoring practices at Camp Lejeune’s Onslow Beach, a key training area for marines. David Johnston, director of the lab, described how the research and training provided through the project will help “develop the protocols to help balance policies regulating UAS use and provides a clear transition plan to facilitate use across DoD land assets.”

Johnston’s team of Duke researchers will conduct the research in partnership with UNC’s Institute of Marine Science, Croatan National Forest, and Attollo LLC, a veteran-owned company with experienced drone pilots. Leveraging research findings, the private-public partnership will ultimately focus on “technology transition” – providing equipment, training and protocol development to land managers at Camp LeJeune.

For more information on the project, check out this in-depth article from Coastal Review Online.

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