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Childhood Obesity and Bullying Conference
May 13, 2015

The Childhood Obesity and Bullying Conference: Health Professions Working Together to Address Weight Bias was held on May 1st, 2015 in the Busch Campus Center. The conference was packed with a diverse group of social workers, medical and mental health professionals. Dr. Larry Katz, senior associate director of NJ Agricultural Experiment Station and director of Rutgers Cooperative Extension and professor of Animal Sciences, provided welcoming remarks.

The morning keynote address, “Weight-Based Victimization in Youth: A Pervasive Problem with Concerning Health Consequences,” was delivered by Dr. Rebecca Puhl. Dr. Puhl serves as deputy director of the Rudd Center for Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut. In her speech, Dr. Puhl provided an overview of recent evidence about obesity and bullying, highlighting the nature, extent and health consequences of weight-based victimization of youth, and strategies to help reduce this harmful form of violence.

"When working with youth, it is important to identify sources and settings of victimization," said Dr. Puhl. She also noted the importance of using “people first language.” As a parent or professional in the field dealing with a child with obesity, it is vital to put the child before their medical conditions. For example, one would use the phrase “a child with obesity” instead of, “an obese child.”

The morning and afternoon breakout workshops offered an opportunity to talk about topics related to childhood obesity and bullying in smaller, more intimate groups led by a professional in the field. Workshops like “Cyberbullying” and “Fat Is the New Ugly at Home and in the Classroom” discussed major issues with children experiencing weight bias in the digital age. Other workshops like, “Building a Positive School Climate” and “Mindful Eating: An Ancient Practice with a Modern Application for Healthy Eating Behaviors” gave participants the tools to make changes in their personal and professional lives.

In the afternoon keynote address, Dr. Maurice Elias posed the question, “what happens when a child gets teased because of obesity, is given less consideration when opportunities are available, and is seen as less presentable and capable?” Dr. Elias is a psychology professor and director of the Rutgers Social-Emotional Learning Lab, and academic director of the Collaborative Center for Community-Based Research and Service. The presentation looked at ways to help children develop healthy mindsets by building their emotional intelligence and that of those with whom they interact.

“The conference as a whole gave the opportunity for professionals in various fields to come out for more than CEU credits. They received insights and actions to put into practice,” said Doug Behan, Director of Continuing Education.

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