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Arnold School of Public Health


CPARG produces special theme issue on the Healthy Communities Study

September 21, 2015 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu 

Arnold School members from the Department of Exercise Science (EXSC) and Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior (HPEB) recently served as guest editors and authors for a special theme issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (published on September 15) that focuses on the Healthy Communities Study (HCS). Professor Russell Pate, Grant Writer & Editor Gaye Christmus and Doctoral Candidate Samantha McDonald of EXSC coordinated the call for papers and served as editors for the eight-article special issue. Pate and Arnold School faculty members Edward Frongillo (HPEB) and Kerry McIver (EXSC) served as authors on several of the papers.

HCS is a five-year study funded and led by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute within the National Institutes of Health. A national team, including researchers from the University of South Carolina, has been collecting data from approximately 5,000 families in 130 communities across the United States to examine the associations between characteristics of community programs and policies and body mass index (BMI), diet and physical activity in children. The study recently completed data collection, and the investigators are in the process of analyzing the data and developing manuscripts to share the findings.

The current supplement provides the backdrop. “This group of papers describes the history, purpose and protocols of the Healthy Communities Study and sets the stage to disseminate the findings,” says Christmus, who earned a Master of Public Health degree from the Arnold School. As a grant writer and technical editor for EXSC, she combines her public health background with her love of writing.  

McDonald is a fourth-year doctoral student in exercise science who is studying the influence of cardiorespiratory fitness and physical activity during pregnancy on maternal and fetal outcomes. She has spent the past 18 months helping to coordinate the work of the HCS Publications and Presentations Committee, which includes the work on this supplement. “It has been a wonderful opportunity working with a great group of researchers across a wide range of disciplines,” she says. “I was also able to learn about the complexities, strengths and limitations that accompany carrying out a study of this magnitude.”

Pate, who serves as chair of the HCS Publications and Presentations Committee, and other committee members approached the journal about the supplement. “The Healthy Communities Study represents a unique effort to expand our understanding of community policies and programs that may influence weight status in children,” says Pate, who also appeared in a video about the study. “We are excited that this set of articles, which provide an in-depth description of the study protocol, is being published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.”

In addition to participating on the national leadership team for HCS, Pate leads USC’s involvement in the study. The Arnold School-based Children’s Physical Activity Research Group (CPARG), where Pate serves as both the director and an investigator, brought the interdisciplinary research team together to work on HCS as well as numerous other projects related to physical activity and its promotion among children and adolescents.

Professor Frongillo and Research Assistant Professor McIver serve as investigators on the study, providing expertise on measurement of diet and physical activity in children and families. Together with Pate, they contributed to five of the eight papers as authors, describing the project’s rationale, aims, and approach, operational implementation, physical activity measures, weight status measures, and statistical design features. Dawn Wilson, a professor in the Department of Psychology and a CPARG investigator, also served as an author for the supplement.