Glossary of Terms

San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative Media domain and staff worked together with other domain leadership to create a glossary of terms commonly used by partners and experts working in obesity prevention.  The purpose of this glossary is to serve as a resource for all partners in order to develop common language when discussing the environmental and policy aspects of obesity prevention with media, the community, and other stakeholders.


Business Domain

Candy Buy Back: A program where children can bring in their surplus unopened candy into participating dental and pediatric offices. Participating offices will give the kids $1.00 for each pound of candy brought in during the days following Halloween/Harvest celebrations. Participating shipping stores will ship the candy "at cost" to Operation Gratitude who ships the candy to our US troops:

Food Stamps: The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), now known as "Cal Fresh" in California, is a program that helps improve the health and well being of qualified households and individuals by providing them a means to meet their nutritional needs. For more information go to:

Incentive Programs: Formal programs used to promote or encourage specific actions or behaviors by a specific group of people. Incentive Programs may be used by businesses to motivate and encourage employees, and by stores in order to attract and keep customers.

Permitting Processes: The steps and/or procedures needed in order for a permit (a written order granting special permission to do something) to be issued.

SNAP: The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is now known as "Cal Fresh" in California. It is a program that helps improve the health and well being of qualified households and individuals by providing them a means to meet their nutritional needs. For more information go to:

Government Domain

Accessible Active Transportation: Having a safe environment and the means to participate in any form of active human-powered transportation, such as walking, cycling, using a wheelchair, in-line skating, or skateboarding.

Agency Strategic Plans: An organization or agency process of defining its strategy, or direction, and making decisions on allocating its resources to pursue this strategy, including its capital, resources, and people.

City and County General Plans: The policy of acceptable land uses in each jurisdiction. Each city and county adopts and updates their General Plan to guide the growth and land development of their community, for both the current period and the long term. The General Plan is the foundation for establishing goals, purposes, zoning, and activities allowed on each land parcel to provide compatibility and continuity to the entire region as well as each individual neighborhood.

Community Plans: A public document that works together with the General Plan to provide location-based policies and recommendations in community planning areas. Community plans are written to refine the General Plan's citywide policies, designate land uses and housing densities, and include additional site-specific recommendations as needed.

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED): Proper design and effective use of the built environment that can lead to a reduction in the fear and incidence of crime, and an improvement in the quality of life.

Health Impact Assessment (HIA): A means of assessing the health impacts of policies, plans and projects in diverse economic sectors using quantitative, qualitative, and participatory techniques. Health Impact Assessments help decision-makers make choices about alternatives and improvements to prevent disease/injury and to actively promote health.

Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) Cities Campaign: Campaign in California that works with cities to adopt policies that will improve the physical activity and food environments for residents.

High-Risk Populations: A specific group of people that are more likely to be exposed to or are more sensitive to a certain condition than the general population.

Level of Service Standards: The minimum requirements for the quality of public services provided by the government.

Redevelopment: A process authorized under California law that enables local government entities to revitalize deteriorated and blighted areas in their jurisdictions. Redevelopment agencies develop a plan and provide the initial funding to launch revitalization of identified areas.

Regional Comprehensive Plan (RCP): The long-term planning framework for a region. It provides a broad context, which dictates public policy in terms of transportation, utilities, land use, recreation, and housing. Comprehensive plans typically encompass large geographical areas, a broad range of topics, and cover a long-term time period.

Regional Food Systems Policies: A comprehensive food planning process at the community and regional levels that include policy changes to increase regional and local access to healthful foods.

Regional Transportation Plan (RTP): A long-term blueprint of a region's transportation system. The RTP presents the overarching policies and goals, system concepts for all modes of travel, funding strategies, and local implementation requirements.

Safe Routes to School (SRTS): Programs that enable community leaders, schools and parents across the United States to improve safety and encourage more children, including children with disabilities, to safely walk and bicycle to school.

Subdivision Regulations: Local ordinances which specify the standards and conditions under which a tract of land can be subdivided. Originally directed at street layout and construction specifications, many regulations now stipulate the general design of street lighting and signs, sidewalks, sewage disposal, and water-supply systems; others require the dedication of land for schools, parks, and other community facilities within the subdivision.

Workplace Lactation Policies: Policy that provides for breastfeeding accommodations at work including a reasonable amount of break time and access to clean, private spaces for lactation.

Zoning Ordinances: Laws passed by local governments regulating the size, type, structure, nature, and use of buildings. Often referred to as zoning laws and zoning regulations, and divided into those which regulate the height or bulk of buildings within certain designated zones or districts and those which prescribe the type of buildings which may be constructed, and the use to which buildings within certain designated zones or districts may be put.

Healthcare Domain

BMI: This is an abbreviation for Body Mass Index. A person's BMI is calculated from a their weight and height. Scientists believe that the BMI provides a reliable indicator of body fatness for most people. It is used to screen people for overweight and obesity that may lead to health problems.

BMI Prevalence: The frequency of overweight and obesity based on Body Mass Index (BMI).

Cultural Competency: Refers to an ability to understand, communicate with, and interact effectively with people of different cultures.

Community Competency: Taking into account the complex experiences, circumstances, history, diversity, environment, resources, and culture that shape the communities served by those seeking to improve communities.

Evidence-based Practice Guidelines: A series of recommendations on clinical care, supported by the best available evidence in the clinical literature. Evidence-based practice involves ongoing systematic review of the science supporting the diagnosis and treatment planning for a condition by clinicians and patients.

Obesity Screening, Prevention, and Treatment: The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that clinicians screen children ages six (6) to eighteen (18) years for obesity and refer as appropriate to programs to improve their weight status.

Quality Improvement Organizations: Monitor the appropriateness, effectiveness, and quality of care provided to people enrolled in MediCal, Medicare, and those enrolled with health insurance / managed care organizations.

Quality Assessment Measures for Health Insurers: The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) is a private, not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving health care quality. Since its founding in 1990, NCQA has been a central figure in driving improvement throughout the health care system, helping to elevate the issue of health care quality to the top of the national agenda. Health Insurers use NCQA measures of health to improve the quality of healthcare for insured members.

Screening: An assessment or investigation of something; for instance, looking for people with a particular problem or feature, such as obesity.

Surveillance Efforts: Community, county, state and national level continuous data collection, analysis and interpretation with the purpose of planning, implementing, and evaluating public health practice; one example is the collection of Body Mass Index  (BMI) information.

Uniform Nutrition Messaging: Health Agencies using consistent, reliable, and valid nutrition messages in their communications.


Early Childhood Domain

Childcare providers: People that care for children for more than a half day outside of the child's home.  Childcare providers can include family childcare, center based childcare, and preschool.

Center-Based childcare providers: Center-based care may also be labeled child or daycare centers, nursery schools, or preschools. These facilities care for children in groups outside of a residential setting. They may have different sponsors, including universities, schools, churches, social service agencies, independent owners or chains, and employers.  Center-based programs can care for infants, toddlers, preschool-aged children, school-aged children and teens with disabilities.

Exempt childcare: Providers caring for children from only one other family are exempt from licensing requirements in California.

Farm to Preschool:  Farm to Preschool is designed to influence early childhood eating habits and expand the farm to school network of programs to bring farm fresh foods to a range of childcare and preschool programs. Goals of the program include the following: replace unhealthy snacks, meals, and beverages at preschools with locally grown fruits and vegetables from farmers and farmers' markets; and provide age- and culturally-appropriate nutrition curricula for preschoolers and their parents, including Harvest of the Month activities, taste tests and cooking demos, visits to farms and farmers' markets, and a presentation series for parents given by bilingual doctors. Demonstration sites will be established to disseminate the program to other interested preschools, day care centers and family homes.  Ultimately, program-developed wellness policies for preschools will help establish nutrition standards for these schools and community organization around fresh and healthy food access will be facilitated.

Licensed Family Childcare Providers: A family childcare provider is a person who uses their residence to provide paid childcare on a regular, ongoing basis. Children are brought to the caregiver's home for care (vs. a caregiver who goes to the child's home to provide care).  In California, one adult can watch up to six (6) children, two (2) adults can watch up to fourteen (14) children. Home childcare providers should be licensed by the state and the care providers should have basic training in first aid, safety and childcare. Many in-home providers also have training in early education.

Nannies: People who care for children in the child's home.  In California, nannies do not need to be licensed, but it is recommended that they be TrustLined.

Preschool for All (PFA): A demonstration of an effective universal preschool system is currently underway in San Diego County; it is called the San Diego County Preschool for All (SDCPFA) Demonstration Project. The project is being developed under the leadership of the San Diego County Office of Education with funding provided by First 5 San Diego ( /)who allocated thirty (30) million dollars for implementation.  Key features of the project include:

  • Quality preschool experiences
  • Inclusive of children with special needs
  • Families can choose from a variety of preschool settings
  • Socially, culturally, and linguistically appropriate early childhood education
  • Professional growth of teachers

Preschool Providers: Preschool is a type of center-based care for children two and a half (2.5) to five (5) years of age.  It is a half-day program and sometimes has an academic focus.

TrustLine: TrustLine is a database of nannies and baby-sitters that have cleared criminal background checks in California.  It is the only authorized screening program of in-home caregivers in the state with access to fingerprint records at the California Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

USDA Child and Adult Food Program: The United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Child and Adult Care Food Program plays a vital role in improving the quality of child care and making it more affordable for many low-income families.  Child & Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) reaches even further to provide meals to children residing in emergency shelters, and snacks and suppers to youths participating in eligible afterschool care programs.

Schools Domain

Competitive (or a la carte) foods: Foods available or for sale anywhere and anytime at a school that are not part of the National School Lunch Program. In California, these foods are regulated by state nutrition standards spelled out in SB 12 & SB 965.

Electrolyte Replacement Beverage (ERB): Sports drinks such as PowerAde® and Gatorade® are currently allowed to be sold at middle schools and high schools in California provided they contain no more than forty -two (42) grams of added sweetener per twenty (20) ounce serving.

Fitness Test: All students in grades five (5), seven (7) and nine (9) are tested on six (6) components of physical fitness using the Fitnessgram® assessment, developed by the Cooper Institute. The six components are Aerobic Capacity, Body Composition, Abdominal Strength, Trunk Extensor Strength, Upper Body Strength and Flexibility. Fitness test results by county, district and school are available at

Free and Reduced Eligibility (FRE) Rate: The percentage of students in a school or district qualifying for free or reduced-price school meal under the National School Lunch Program.

Local School Wellness Policy (LSWP): A federal requirement for school districts participating in the National School Lunch Program starting in 2007. Requires a Wellness Council to develop, implement, monitor and report on goals for Nutrition Education, Physical Education, all foods and beverages available on campus, and other school-based activities designed to promote student wellness.

National School Lunch Program (NSLP): A federally assisted meal program operating in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions. It provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches, breakfasts and snacks to children each school day. The program was established under the National School Lunch Act, signed by President Harry Truman in 1946.

Physical activity: Bodily movement of any type and may include recreational, fitness and sport activities such as jumping rope, playing soccer, lifting weights, as well as daily activities such as walking to the store, taking the stairs or raking the leaves. The National Association of Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) recommends school-age children accumulate at least sixty (60) minutes and up to several hours of physical activity per day while avoiding prolonged periods of inactivity.

Physical Education: A standards-based, sequential course of study that provides learning opportunities, appropriate instruction, meaningful and challenging content for all children on body movement, sports skills, and lifelong fitness. The California Department of Education mandates two hundred (200) minutes of physical education each ten (10) days for students in grades one through six (1-6) and four hundred (400) minutes each ten (10) days for students in grades seven through twelve (7-12).

SB 12 and SB 965: California legislation passed in 2005 that set standards limiting the amount of calories, fat, saturated fat and sugar in foods (SB12) and beverages (SB 965) sold on a school campus from thirty (30) minutes before until thirty (30) minutes after the school day.

Wellness Councils / Committees: At the district or school level, a group that meets regularly to support implementation, monitoring and reporting on progress in achieving goals of Local School Wellness Policy. Members should included district and school administrators, school board members, students, parents, physical education, nursing, after-school and child nutrition staff, and community-based organization representatives.


Community Domain

Grassroots: A movement driven by the politics or desires of a community. The term implies that the creation of the movement and the group supporting it are natural and spontaneous, highlighting the differences between this and a movement that is orchestrated by traditional power structures. Grassroots movements are often at the local level, as many volunteers in the community give their time to support the local movement, which can lead to helping the national (or a larger) movement.

Supportive Environments: Physical, social, spiritual, economic, and political environments that promote and support health.


General Terms

Advocacy - Public support for, or recommendation of, a particular cause or policy.

Behavioral Influence - Any behavior that is related to or leads to the development of childhood obesity.

Built Environments - Encompasses a range of physical and social elements that make up the structure of a community and may influence obesity such as buildings, spaces, and products that are created or modified by people, including includes homes, schools, workplaces, park/recreation areas, greenways, business areas, and transportation systems.

Cardiovascular Disease: A general term that usually refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain (angina) or stroke.

Childhood Obesity: An excessive accumulation of body fat.  Children whose weight exceeds the 95th percentile for their age, gender, and height on the BMI-for-age chart.  (BMI means Body Mass Index). Childhood Obesity increases the risk for Type 2 Diabetes, high cholesterol, depression and low-self esteem, and tends to continue into adulthood.

Childhood Obesity Prevention: Prevention of childhood obesity includes efforts to prevent the occurrence of obesity in children, such as risk factor reduction; in addition, efforts are employed to stop its progress and prevent chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which are known consequences of childhood obesity.

Childhood Overweight: A child or adolescent who has a Body Mass Index (BMI) at or above the 85th percentile and lower than the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex.

Chronic diseases: - Generally of long duration and generally slow progression; chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States.

Community Partners: Those individuals and organizations in the San Diego community who choose to participate by becoming a partner in the San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative (COI) to jointly work on defined goals and action items in the domains of Government, Healthcare, Schools/After-school, Early Childhood, Community, Media and Business.

Culturally Appropriate: Using a specific culture's acceptable expressions, standards of behavior, and thoughts in interventions and educational materials.

Diabetes: Diabetes mellitus, a chronic disease, is often simply referred to as diabetes-is a group of metabolic diseases in which a person has high blood sugar, either because the body does not produce enough insulin, or because cells do not respond to the insulin that is produced.

Ecological Model: This model focuses on understanding the environment in which people, together with their families and communities, make health related choices in their daily lives.

Environmental Change: Adjusting the factors in the surroundings of an individual that will support him/her in his family and community so that the easy choice will more likely be a healthy one.

Epidemic: Affecting or tending to affect a disproportionately large number of individuals within a population, community, or region at the same time.

Health Promotion: Health promotion is the process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve, their health. It moves beyond a focus on individual behavior towards a wide range of social and environmental interventions that encourage healthy choices.

Individual, Interpersonal, Organizational and Community Levels: The ecological model includes several levels where behavior change occurs, including factors affecting what decisions are made and behavior that occurs at the level of the person, their interactions with other people as well as within organizations such as schools and workplaces and in the community.

Infrastructure: The fundamental facilities and systems serving a country, city, or area, as transportation and communication systems, power plants, and schools.

Joint Use Policy/Agreement: A formal agreement between two separate government entities, often a school district and a city or county, setting forth the terms and conditions for the shared use of public property. Typically, each party under a joint use agreement helps fund the development, operation, and maintenance of the facilities that will be shared.

Literature Review: A body of text that aims to review the critical points of current knowledge and/or methodological approaches on a particular topic.  Literature reviews are secondary sources, and as such, do not report any new or original experimental work.

Multidisciplinary: Combining or involving several academic disciplines or professional specializations in an approach to a topic or problem.

Operational Excellence: A philosophy of leadership, teamwork, and problem solving resulting in continuous improvement throughout the organization by focusing on the needs of the customer, empowering employees, and optimizing existing activities in the process.

Physical Environment: All objective structural factors external to the individual that both positively and negatively influences a person's behavior.

Policy and Environmental Changes: Policies are laws, regulations, and rules (both formal and informal) that can support or inhibit healthy lifestyles. Environmental changes may affect the economic, social, or physical surroundings.

Policy Development: Developing policy generally involves research, analysis, consultation, and synthesis of information to produce recommendations. It should also involve an evaluation of options against a set of criteria used to assess each option.

Population: The total number of individuals occupying an area or making up a whole.

Prevalence: A statistical concept referring to the number of cases of a disease that are present in a particular population at a given time.

Public/Private Partnership: Describes a government service or private business venture, which is funded and operated through a partnership or government, and one or more private sector companies.

Social Environment: The part of the human surroundings that have to do with person-to-person relationships. This includes the culture within which people interact.

Stakeholders: A person, group, organization, or system that affects or can be affected by an organization's actions.

Supportive Environment: A person's surroundings that provide for easy access to healthful foods and which allow time and places to be physically active.

Wellness Policies: Comprehensive health policies and programs designed to maintain a high level of well-being through proper diet, physical activity, stress management, and illness prevention.

WIC (Women, Infants, and Children): A program of the US Federal Government program that provides grants to States for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.


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Quick Facts

  • If today’s current trend continues, it is anticipated that 1 in 3 children born in the US after the year 2000 will develop type 2 diabetes (American Diabetes Association, 2009).
  • One in four children in San Diego County is overweight or obese; this is slightly higher than the national average (California Center for Public Health Advocacy, 2009)
  • More children are being diagnosed with diseases linked to overweight and obesity previously seen only in adults, such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease (The Obesity Society, 2009).

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