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Obesity epidemic seen slowing but not falling

BY Alaric DeArment

While the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes has increased over the last several years, so has the parallel health problem of obesity.

But while Type 2 diabetes has risen dramatically, particularly in the last five years, the obesity epidemic might be plateauing among some groups, even if it’s not reversing.

“Obesity has been increasing in prevalence over the last several decade. But we are starting to see a leveling off among women, and it doesn’t look like we’ve seen any major increases among children and teens over the last several years,” said Karen Hunter, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “But it’s not decreasing, either.”

A study published in May in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that between 1999 and 2006, overweight and obesity among children in the United States stayed stable at about 32 percent. By contrast, between 1980 and 2004, the percentage of children ages 6 to 11 who were obese increased from 6.5 percent to 18.8 percent; among those ages 12 to 19, the rate increased from 5 percent in 1980 to 17.4 percent in 2004.

According to the CDC, the rate among adults has remained high, but showed no statistically significant increase between 2003 and 2006 for men or women, though adults ages 40 to 59 still had much higher rates of obesity than those in the 20-to-39 age group and those 60 and older.

While the numbers appear to be leveling off, education on the subject has become more widespread.

“The awareness of the issue has grown tremendously,” said Lisa Simpson, a professor and director of the child policy research center at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center who specializes in childhood obesity.

Simpson is one of four pediatricians on the Obesity Research Work Group, which the American Academy of Pediatrics established this year. Despite the findings in JAMA, she said that the rate at which primary-care physicians have historically identified children as obese has been very low, though this also is changing.

“If you don’t identify a child as obese, then you can’t even begin to think of intervention,” Simpson said.

But some worrying trends remain, she said. In particular, obesity rates vary between income, racial and ethnic groups.

According to the CDC, they vary especially widely among women. About 53 percent of black women and 51 percent of Mexican-American women were obese, compared with 39 percent of white women. Among women ages 60 and older, 61 percent of black women were obese, compared with 37 percent of Mexican-American women and 32 percent of white women.

Because of disparities like these, Simpson said, retail pharmacies can help with education.

“Because of the disproportionate toll that the epidemic is taking on low-income [people] and racial and ethnic minorities, retail pharmacists—being aware of the issues of patient education, health literacy and health numeracy—are critical,” she said.

Some pharmacists also refer patients to outside specialists to address health problems related to lifestyle. Karen Reed, a pharmacist at the Kmart in Beckley, W.Va., and a spokeswoman for the American Pharmacists Association’s American Pharmacists Month program, said she refers some of her diabetes patients to dieticians and other specialists, communicating with them beforehand so they know what patients’ problems are and can find ways to help them change their ways.

“I kind of give them a heads-up so they can see what the problem is,” she said. “It sometimes makes it more effective if they know what to anticipate.”

“Referral out to community resources and counseling is really critical,” she said.

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Battery makers upgrade power sources, get more shelf space

BY Mike Duff

LOS ANGELES and ST. LOUIS, Mo. As new products keep rolling in from major battery brand manufacturers, retailers are updating their marketing to maximize the potential of increasingly specific product functions.

On Aug. 18, Energizer announced the launch of its new Advanced Lithium battery, one designed to reliably power wireless gaming accessories, digital cameras, hand-held games or MP3 players.

Five weeks earlier, Panasonic introduced the EVOLTA battery, which it characterized as the world’s longest lasting AA alkaline battery cell in more devices. EVOLTA represents a certain resistance to battery specialization. “We see the trend in batteries going toward more ‘middle-drain’ applications as the reduction in power consumption needs of appliances has resulted in less high-drain devices needing primary battery power. EVOLTA eliminates the confusion for consumers and gives them confidence that our battery will perform well across many applications,” said Matt Sora, vice president of sales and marketing.

While others keyed on batteries, Duracell focused on the kind of line extensions. Among the new products debuted was Duracell Daylite, the cornerstone of new flashlight line designed to take LED lighting to the next level, the company stated, by capturing and using 100 of the light generated versus 70 percent in more typical instances. The flashlight introduction came hard on the heels of the debut of Duracell’s My Pocket Charger and the PowerSource Mini, which were developed to complement cell phones, BlackBerrys and MP3 players.

Ultimately, said Duracell spokesman Kurt Iverson, battery producers are bringing technology to bear in developing more effective, longer lasting products that use innovation to provide power more efficiently. “In the case of the Daylite flashlight, it’s getting a product to work using less battery power and still produce a brighter beam of light,” he said.

The involvement of major battery brands in a range of portable energy dependent items certainly is stretching traditional brand boundaries and merchandising concepts as well.

Jacqueline Burwitz, spokeswoman for Energizer said that, while the brand remains the one that keeps on going and going, the company’s merchandising support has evolved with its product line. “It has changed. Now it’s a matter of pairing the right battery with the right device,” she said.

Battery makers have encouraged many retailers to create ancillary product display spaces that complement the products they power, but drug chains haven’t necessarily bitten, as many prefer to depend on a battery center merchandising program. “We have those sections,” said Stacy Rinehart, a USA Drug spokeswoman. “We have our batteries in those displays.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that drug chains aren’t changing to the existing market.

Rather than develop secondary displays, Walgreens focuses on appropriately expanding its battery centers to make it easier to shop for specific applications, said Robert Elfinger, a company spokesman. 

“The battery section has grown significantly,” he said. “Customers are starting to understand that high-draining devices such as digital cameras are getting specific batteries, and they are looking for some of the new high-tech batteries. We’re expanding the battery sections to accommodate them.”

Thus, drug chains, for the most part, feel as if a battery center, usually conspicuously positioned, makes sense in terms of both attracting customers and return from floor space, as it can keep pace with developments in the category if properly configured to changes in the market.

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Survey says 40 percent of shoppers plan to start holiday gift-shopping before Halloween

BY Jenna Duncan

WASHINGTON The National Retail Federation today released results of its 2008 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, run by BIGresearch, showing that the average American holiday shopper plans to spend more than $800 each on holiday shopping.

The NRF’s survey results showed that 40.2 percent of consumers said that they will begin  holiday shopping before Halloween and survey respondents plan to spend about $832 on average on holiday items. This average reflects only a 1.9 percent increase over last year’s average total: $816.69. It’s the lowest anticipated spending increase NFR launched its survey in 2002.

Forty percent of survey respondents said that sales and/or promotions is the biggest lure to where they will shop, while 12.6 percent said they will seek “everyday low-prices.” Only 5.6 percent said they would choose holiday shopping locations based on convenience and 5.2 said it depends on customer service.

NRF president and chief executive officer, Tracy Mullin, said, “Retailers are going into this holiday season with their eyes wide open, knowing that savings and promotions will be the main incentive for shoppers. No one is canceling Christmas because money is tight, but consumers will be sticking to their budgets and looking for good deals when deciding where to spend this holiday season.”

Survey repondents also said they would spend about $51.43 each on decorations, $32.43 for greeting cards and postage, $95.04 on candy and food and $22.61 on flowers. The Internet has seen steady rates of shoppers: 44.2 percent of the shoppers in the survey said they were buying gifts online, flat from 44.3 last year. NRF has said that it predicts holiday sales to increase 2.2 percent over last year, for a total of $470.4 billion.

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