Bridging the Gap: Research Informing Policies and Practices for Healthy Youth (No. 6)


Obesity among US children has risen dramatically over the past few decades, and considerable disparities exist by race/ethnicity and by socioeconomic status. The role of the environment in contributing to poor diets, physical inactivity, and obesity is increasingly clear and environmental and policy interventions are being widely promoted as means for combating this epidemic.

To date, there is limited evidence on the effects of these approaches, with Bridging the Gap (BTG) one of the key contributors to this growing literature. BTG examines the impacts of state, local and district-level policies as well as school and community characteristics and environmental factors on youth behaviors and weight outcomes. This current stage of funding continues BTG's work through June 2015, including surveys of public elementary school administrators; analysis and reporting of local data from community assessments; analysis and reporting of data on televised food and beverage advertisements; extensive analyses of the multiple levels of data collected and acquired by BTG to disentangle the impact of policy and environmental factors on youth outcomes, with a special focus on inequities; and communications and dissemination activities.

Bridging the Gap generates evidence on the diet, (in)activity, and weight of children and adolescents to stimulate and inform policy change locally — in schools, communities, and states — and nationally.

BTG also provides information helpful in assessing progress over time. While the greatest challenges to BTG are behind it, one limitation of BTG's research is the somewhat limited self-reported set of healthy eating, physical activity, and other measures available in Monitoring the Future. This is offset by the advantages of having long-run trend data on these measures among large, nationally representative samples of youth and by BTG's success in obtaining support from other funders for analyses of other national survey data.

State Laws for School Snack Foods and Beverages

Bridging the Gap interactive website: State Laws for School Snack Foods and Beverages

Sort data by state, school year, grade level, location of sale, and specific nutritional standards in this interactive website.

Research Partner(s)

University of Michigan Institute for Social Research

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About this grant

This is the sixth grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to IHRP for Bridging the Gap since 1997. See the previous stage of this research.

     Bridging the Gap is a national research program jointly based at the University of Illinois at Chicago's Institute for Health Research and Policy (as ImpacTeen) and at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research (as Youth Education and Society, or YES!). Dr. Lloyd Johnston at the University of Michigan co-directs Bridging the Gap with UIC's Dr. Frank Chaloupka.

Related publications

See a list of peer-reviewed articles published before July 2014.

Terry-McElrath YM, Chriqui JF, O'Malley PM, Chaloupka FJ, Johnston LD. Regular soda policies, school availability, and high school student consumption. Am J Prev Med. 2015 Apr;48(4):436-44. [See abstract.]

Ohri-Vachaspati P, Isgor Z, Rimkus L, Powell LM, Barker DC, Chaloupka FJ. Child-directed marketing inside and on the exterior of fast food restaurants. Prev Med. Epub 29 Oct 2014. 2015 Jan;48(1):22-30. [See abstract.]

Powell LM, Nguyen BT, Dietz WH. Energy and nutrient intake from pizza in the United States. Pediatrics. 2015 Jan 19. [Epub ahead of print] [See abstract.]

Nicholson LM, Turner L, Slater SJ, Abuzayd H, Chriqui JF, Chaloupka F. Developing a measure of traffic calming associated with elementary school students' active transport. Transp Res D Transp Environ. 2014 Dec 1;33:17-25. [See abstract.]

Zenk SN, Powell LM, Rimkus L, Isgor Z, Barker DC, Ohri-Vachaspati P, Chaloupka F. Relative and absolute availability of healthier food and beverage alternatives across communities in the United States. Am J Public Health. 2014 Nov;104(11):2170-2178. [See abstract.

Hennessy E, Oh A, Agurs-Collins T, Chriqui JF, Mâsse LC, Moser RP, Perna F. State-level school competitive food and beverage laws are associated with children's weight status. J Sch Health. 2014 Sep;84(9):609-16. [See abstract.]

Taber DR, Criqui JF, Vuillaume R, Chaloupka FJ. How state taxes and policies targeting soda consumption modify the association between school vending machines and student dietary behaviors: a cross-sectional analysis PLoS One. 2014 Aug 1. [See abstract.]

Powell LM, Wada R, Kumanyika SK. Racial/ethnic and income disparities in child and adolescent exposure to food and beverage television ads across the U.S. media markets. Health Place. 2014 Jul 30;29:124-131. [See abstract.]

Kornfield R, Szczypka G, Powell LM, Emery SL. Televised obesity-prevention advertising across US media markets: exposure and content, 2010-2011. Public Health Nutr. 2014 Jul 30:1-11. [Epub ahead of print] [See abstract.]

Nguyen BT, Powell LM.The impact of restaurant consumption among US adults: effects on energy and nutrient intakes.Public Health Nutr. 2014 Jul 30:1-8. [Epub ahead of print] [See abstract.]

Mandal B, Powell LM. Child care choices, food intake, and children's obesity status in the United States.Econ Hum Biol. 2014 Jul;14:50-61. [See abstract.]

Rimkus L, Ohri-Vachaspati P, Powell LM, Zenk SN, Quinn CM, Barker DC, Pugach O, Resnick EA, Chaloupka FJ. Development and reliability testing of a fast-food restaurant observation form. Am J Health Promot. 2014 May 12. [Epub ahead of print] [See abstract.]

Powell LM, Wada R, Persky JJ, Chaloupka FJ. Employment impact of sugar-sweetened beverage taxes. Am J Public Health. 2014 Apr;104(4):672-7. [See abstract.]