Columbia Creates Online Caloric Calculator to Help Policymakers Plan Prevention Efforts
Dieters often use online calorie calculators to stay true to their weight-loss plan. Translating the concept to the population health arena, researchers at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health created the Caloric Calculator (CaloricCalculator.org) to help policymakers, school district administrators, and others assess the potential impact of health policy choices on childhood obesity.
The Calorie Counter lets the user select a target population (middle-school-age boys, for example), and it will report the percentage of this group that is obese (18 percent) and the average daily calorie cuts necessary to meet two goals: returning them to obesity levels for that population in the year 2000 and the early 1970s (109 and 237 kcal, respectively). The user can then choose from a menu of 14 interventions: 30 minutes of daily PE time, for example, would reduce 49 kcal; eliminating one can of soda would cut an additional 136 kcal; and restricting television time by 60 minutes would cut another 106 kcal. Each time an intervention is added, the Calculator displays a graph illustrating the cumulative impact on obesity goals.
“While childhood obesity can sometimes seem like an insurmountable problem, there are many proven interventions that can make a difference. The Caloric Calculator shows that, when implemented in combination, they add up to what is needed,” says Dr. Claire Wang, assistant professor in the department of health policy and management, who led the development of the tool.
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[Photo: Dr. Claire Wang]