Childhood Health and Nutrition Research Conference Resources

  • Article
  • February 29, 2016

The Childhood Health and Nutrition Research Conference hosted together by the USDA Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center and National Dairy Council convened cross-disciplinary experts in childhood health and nutrition to examine the current state of nutrition science from bench-top to application. Find the presentations, videos and other resources below.

Scroll to the bottom for the Continuing Professional Education Certificate of Attendance.




Maternal Diet in Pregnancy Paves the Way for Childhood Health, Neurological Function, and Weight Status

Kartik Shankar, Ph.D., DABT, Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Division of Developmental Nutrition and Investigator at the Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center at UAMS

The importance of nutrition on childhood health begins prior to conception. Dr. Kartik Shankar showed that maternal diet and obesity are well recognized factors that influence the risk of childhood obesity and metabolic health. Dr. Shankar shared the latest research on this topic and provided insight for future research, such as the effect of the pre-pregnancy environment on childhood health and conducting research on various aspects of “health” outside of the typical parameters of birth weight, adiposity and growth. 

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  • NOTE: Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, the video recording of Dr. Shankar’s presentation is unavailable.

Nutrition's Impact on Childhood Cognitive Function, Learning, and Development

Terry Pivik, Ph.D., Director of the Brain Function Laboratory at the Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center and Research Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

“Health” means more than just weight, it also encompasses behavior and cognitive function. Dr. Terry Pivik focused his presentation on early life nutrition and the impact on brain function. He showed that dietary factors play an important role in the programming and development of the central nervous system. For example, he showed data that skipping breakfast can have negative impacts on learning and performance.

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  • NOTE: Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, the video recording of Dr. Pivik’s presentation is unavailable. 

Environmental and Developmental Influences on Children's Food Preferences and Dietary Intake

Susan Johnson, Ph.D., Professor and Early Childhood Nutritionist in the Section of Nutrition, Department of Pediatrics, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

Dr. Susan Johnson focused on the behavioral aspects of building a dietary pattern. Her presentation highlighted that foods high in sweet and salty taste are easily accepted by children while healthy foods are initially perceived to be less palatable. Dr. Johnson shared that repeated exposure is the key to gaining acceptance, with an average of eight exposure attempts needed by a child to eat a new food. Over time more exposure will result in less playing with food and more eating. Dr. Johnson also touched on communication strategies for caregivers. She believes that to be effective we need to be "mom minded" in our messaging and focus in on the biological need of a parent to feed the child.

Children are not little adults (yet): The next frontier of biomarkers for assessing childhood heath

Ben van Ommen, Ph.D., Principal Scientist & Program Director Systems Biology, Toegepast-Natuurwetenschappelijk Onderzoek (TNO)

The final presenter of this panel was Dr. Ben van Ommen who stressed that health is not simply the absence of disease. We need to apply a systems approach to health and come up with new ways to measure this. He proposed the idea of creating a “bio-passport” that would include all of your biomarkers in one place to then guide you towards individualized guidance and interventions.

Evidence based panel discussion

What we eat and when we eat impact many health related outcomes, beginning with the fetus. Dr. Bob Murray, MD, moderated this discussion as the four scientist who comprised the Evidence Based Panel discussed the current state of nutrition research, explored questions that need to be answered and described how to best answer these questions.



The Practical Application of School Intervention Programs: What Works and What Doesn't

Katie Wilson, Ph.D., SNS, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services

Children spend a large part of their days in the school setting, thus the school environment is an excellent opportunity to positively influence children’s health habits. Dr. Katie Wilson, who is the USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, presented on school nutrition intervention programs where she showcased some strategies that work really well and suggested where we might want to look for future inspiration.

The Practical Application Beyond School; Community, Home and Environmental Programs

Jayne Fulkerson, Ph.D., Professor, Director, Center for Child and Family Health Promotion Research, University of Minnesota

Dr. Jayne Fulkerson then followed up on Katie’s presentation by focusing on the initiatives outside of school; environmental-, community-, and home-based programs. She presented examples of multiple nutrition promotion and obesity prevention initiatives and highlighted some best practices. Dr. Fulkerson suggested that in order to effectively translate research we need to utilize a multi-settings approach; providing education, social support, policy, systems and environmental changes in several settings such as early childhood education, schools, health care, homes and communities.

Multi-Level Strategies to Prevent Overweight and Obesity: A Systems Approach

Christina Economos, Ph.D., Associate Professor and the New Balance Chair in Childhood Nutrition at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and Medical School at Tufts University

Dr. Chris Economos expanded on the idea of a systems approach – everything from behaviors and beliefs around nutrition and physical activity in various settings such as schools, communities as well as the policy surrounding it all.  This is something that all of the other speakers had alluded to as the most effective way to drive change. Dr. Economos used examples from her own studies and interventions “Shape up Somerville” and “Obesity 180.”

Youth Empowerment Among Middle School Students: Theory, Research, & Practice

Marc Zimmerman, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Health Behavior and Health Education and Department of Psychology, University of Michigan

Marc Zimmerman presented on the importance of youth empowerment. The empowerment theory provides a conceptual framework of human development that focuses on strengths and wellness rather than problems and illness. He suggested that childhood involvement in activities to enhance their own community will help youth gain vital skills, responsibilities, and the confidence necessary to develop into productive, healthy adults.

Translation panel discussion


Intervening on childhood nutrition and obesity is complex. Translating evidence based practices into real world settings is complicated and often there are barrier to implementation. Dr. Sarah Lee moderated this panel discussion that took the audience from a single setting to a multi-level approach.


Other Resources

  • Continuing Professional Education Certificate of Attendance (activity number 175). NDC is a CDR Accredited Provider for continuing education. Eight (8) CEUs are available for Registered Dietitian Nutritionists who attended the event or watched the presentation videos. These presentations have been approved for one CEU each, if you review to each presentation outlined here you may receive up to eight CEUs until March 1, 2017.
  • Two review manuscripts will be published in Advances in Nutrition later this year highlighting the research gaps and future directions discussed in each panel, “The Mother-Child Diet Dialogue: What We Know and Don’t Know” and “Translating Childhood Obesity Research into Practical Approaches.”