Michigan State University researchers will lead a $4.7 million effort to tackle childhood obesity, one of the nation’s biggest health challenges, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced March 26.
The five-year project is part of a national $42-million initiative to address childhood obesity through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, which was authorized under the 2014 Farm Bill signed by President Obama on MSU’s campus.
The first year of the MSU project is funded at $833,509. USDA officials anticipate funding the four subsequent years of the initiative at slightly larger amounts, for a total of $4.7 million.
Holly Brophy-Herb, professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies in MSU’s College of Social Science, will lead a multidisciplinary team to address obesity prevention among families with preschoolers.
The team includes Mildred Horodynski from the MSU College of Nursing; Jean Kerver from the MSU Department of Epidemiology; Dawn Contreras from MSU Extension; Julie Lumeng and Niko Kaciroti from the University of Michigan; and the Jackson Community Action Agency Head Start.
Specifically, the study will look at healthy family mealtimes among low-income families.
"Healthy family mealtimes represent a key practice in obesity prevention and healthy lifestyles, yet few studies have examined the barriers economically vulnerable families may face in implementing frequent healthy family meals,” Brophy-Herb said.
“The primary goal of our study is to test the effectiveness of differing levels of support in increasing the frequency of healthy family meals,” she added. “Results from this study are expected to have important implications for policies related to supports for economically-vulnerable families and for the practices of family support programs aimed at increasing child and family health and well-being.”
Horodynski, a co-investigator on the project, also mentioned that the intent of the project is to provide a model for translational research that includes community participation concerning a highly significant problem.
In announcing the grants, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said one-third of America’s children are overweight or obese, making this issue one of the greatest health challenges facing our nation.
“It is critical that we make the effort to help our children be healthy kids, and develop into healthy adults,” Vilsack said.