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March 7, 2022
6:00 PM

An Alarming Rise in Excess Weight and Diabetes in Children: Strategies and Solutions

On March 7, 2022 FAAFC had the pleasure to invite two nutrition and health experts for a dynamic fireside chat on strategies to address the growing concern of unhealthy weight gain and diabetes among children.

Dr Juliana Cohen, nutrition epidemiologist, and Dr. Ileana Vargas-Rodriguez, pediatric endocrinologist, talked about the increasing prevalence of these chronic conditions in the U.S., where over 14 million children and adolescents are defined as obese.  Moreover,  an estimated 11.3% of our overall population has been diagnosed with diabetes, including  8.8 million children.

Drawing from their experience treating young patients, Drs. Cohen and Vargas-Rodriguez informed us about the serious short and long-term risks of these diseases. They concluded by sharing practical strategies and resources for families, regarding foods, beverages, and physical activities.


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Dr. Juliana Cohen (moderator)

Associate professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and in the Department of Nutrition and Public Health at Merrimack College

Dr. Juliana Cohen is both an associate professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and in the Department of Nutrition and Public Health at Merrimack College. Her research examines innovative school-based interventions to encourage the selection and consumption of healthier foods.  She was previously an ORISE Policy and Science fellow at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity.  Dr. Cohen holds a doctorate in nutrition from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, where she also received a Master’s in Society, Human Development and Health.

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Dr. Ileana Vargas-Rodriguez, MD, MS

Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center

Dr. Vargas specializes in Pediatric Endocrinology. She joined Children’s Hospital of New York (CHONY)- Presbyterian in 1998. She has played an active role in the clinical care of pediatric patients with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center. Her work has focused on curriculum development for patient education in diabetes management, most recently nutrition education and they are currently developing a Pediatric Culinary Medicine Curriculum “NextGen Chefs” for patients with diabetes.

Dr. Vargas received a Master of Science in Nutrition at the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University in 2017. Her master’s thesis in nutrition examined the educational gaps and needs of Pediatric Providers at Columbia-NYP, with specific focus on resident education. These research and educational efforts have led to the co-development of a Nutrition Education for Physicians Working Group and Nutrition Education Program (“CHONY Chefs”) as part of a resident’s scholarly project and they are working on making some of the curriculum a permanent part of the resident’s education. She has been working with Kyle Murray, RD, CDE from NYP-CHALK in giving a monthly nutrition education workshop to the pediatric residents during their outpatient clinical rotation “Social Determinants of Health, Food Insecurity and Introduction to Culinary Medicine” where the residents get to do hands-on cooking demonstrations.

She feels that Nutrition in our current environment needs to be well taught and that improving our diet quality can prevent and treat diseases such as type 2 diabetes. She was recently certified as a Culinary Medicine Specialist and is an American Board of Obesity Medicine Diplomate.

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American Diabetes Association

Are you at risk? Take this one minute test
Learn more about the signs symptoms and diagnosis of diabetes here.


Health Meets Food

Get free recipes, handouts and community programming videos here.

Institute for Healthy Childhood Weight

More resources on weight management in children and pediatric obesity prevention.

Family Cook Production

Try these free recipes and activities to engage children and watch the recording of their January 26 webinar "Rebooting 'Kids Food': An Opportunity for Nutrition Educators".

CDC Diabetes & Youth

Learn more about Diabetes, its evolution and its impact on youth in America.

Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior

Read this article where Ms. Fredericks and co-author Pamela Rothpletz-Puglia take a deep dive into shifting the societal norm of kid's food.

Activity Sheets

Are you looking for fun ways to teach kids about healthy eating? Try these free printable handouts from the USDA.


Evaluate portion sizes

The CDC invites you to avoid portion sides pitfalls.



The Dangers of Added Sugars

Consult the CDC guidelines here.