Study to focus on obesity in young children
Researchers from the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health are collaborating with scientists throughout the United States on a national study of community programs aimed at reducing childhood obesity.
The study, funded by a $23 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to the Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio, is one of the largest efforts to date to determine which intervention and prevention community programs work best in the effort to halt the number of children who are becoming overweight and obese. Researchers will focus on 300 communities throughout the nation.
Russ Pate, a professor of exercise science at the Arnold School, is a co-principal investigator on the study that includes scientists from Battelle, the University of Kansas, and the University of California, Berkeley.
The award to the Arnold School, internationally recognized for its research on the link between physical activity and health, is expected to be about $1.4 million over five years, said Pate, a past president of the American College of Sports Medicine and one of the nation’s pre-eminent exercise scientists.
“Despite efforts by healthcare professionals, groups and communities throughout the United States, about 17 percent of children and adolescents are obese,” Pate said. “Studies show that overweight children grow up to become obese adults. We are at a critical point in the healthcare of our youth.”
Arnold School researchers will examine community, family, and personal factors that influence physical activity; socioeconomic and cultural influences on diet and physical activity; school and community policies; and physical environmental factors.
“This is an ambitious effort, but what we learn will help us determine public health practices and policies that will help children and their families,” said Pate, who led the coordinating committee of the National Physical Activity Plan, released in May.
“It will take a study of this magnitude to succeed in identifying community-based interventions that are effective,” he said. “Each institution brings great strength to the research process; the Arnold School brings a strong record in physical activity research.”
Although the communities for the study haven’t been selected, Pate said, it’s likely that South Carolina communities will be included in the research.
Other USC researchers involved with the study are Edward Frongillo, Robert McKeown, Saundra Glover, Melinda Forthofer, Sonya Jones, and Natalie Colabianchi, all from the Arnold School of Public Health, and Dawn Wilson of the Department of Psychology.
Howard Fishbein of the Battelle Memorial Institute is the principal investigator of the grant. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are contributors to the study.
Arnold School of Public Health