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June 18, 2014

Mildred Horodynski: Passion + Prevention

Mildred Horodynski is a professor in the College of Nursing. Her research focuses on identifying the origins of eating habits and developing effective programs to modify these behaviors through family and community-based parent education.

June 18, 2014

I entered nursing because of the desire to give back to those in need of care and assistance in living a healthy life. I chose to obtain a college degree in nursing which pivoted me into a world of higher education with an emphasis on maternal-child nursing and the love of community-based nursing.

I entered academia in an effort to instill in nursing students the love and passion for providing holistic, compassionate, quality care. Being intimately involved in maternal-child health nursing, I saw the need to develop knowledge and skills of parents in the care of their young children. This began my quest for innovative ways to educate parents as it relates to healthy feeding.

Thriving, for the infant and young child, is the dynamic interplay between nutrition, weight and psychosocial functioning. The nutritional status of children depends on parents’ knowledge of nutrition, as well as knowledge of child development and healthy feeding relationships with their young child.

A well-designed intervention that addresses child development along with healthy feeding practices and nutrition education can increase caregivers’ knowledge, shape appropriate attitudes and develop the behavioral skills caregivers need to plan, prepare, select healthful meals and snacks for their child and participate in positive feeding interactions with their young children.

This began my journey into the research world, specifically related to the reduction of risk for childhood obesity.

Did you know that we can reduce the incidence of adult obesity if we can better manage when solid foods are introduced into a baby’s life?

Did you know that mothers have the greatest influence on their child’s eating behaviors?

Did you know that rapid weight gain during infancy is one of the strongest risk factors for obesity later in childhood?

As a faculty member at the College of Nursing at MSU for 34 years I have experienced the vast need for low-income first-time mothers to learn about feeding practices. They do not know what to do, when to do it, or how to do it. My goal is to close this gap and develop the mechanisms to educate these moms. New moms often worry about a plethora of things. Worries I often hear from new Moms include:

  • Am I making the right feeding choices for my baby?
  • How can I feed my baby healthy foods on a low-income?
  • My baby won’t sleep at night—is he or she hungry?
  • Obesity runs in my family—how can I change this for my child?

Through the science of nursing research, I aim to alleviate some of the primary worries of new moms. My greatest reward is witnessing a young and caring mother transition from a place of worry to a place where she feels empowered to be the best parent she can be—leading to the prevention of childhood obesity early in life.

Moms play a vital role in structuring their infants’ and young children’s early experiences with food and eating. To date, I have worked with 400 mother-infant dyads and 600 mother-toddler dyads throughout Michigan. I am motivated by my passion to educate more moms on healthy feeding practices and nutrition and to help create a future where childhood obesity no longer exists.


Read more about Horodynski's work and the recent grant she received from the National Institutes of Health >>