USDA funds University of Arkansas obesity interventions project

April 26, 2011
Contact Information:

PROJECT DIRECTOR CONTACTS:

Rudy Nayga, Professor of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, 479-575-2258, rnayga@uark.edu.

Michael Thomsen, Associate Professor of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, 479-575-2258, mthomsen@uark.edu.

Elizabeth Howlett, Professor of Marketing, Walton College of Business, 479-575-3227, bhowlett@walton.uark.edu.

Judith L. Weber, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, College of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Research Institute, 501-364-7373,WeberJudithL@uams.edu.

Leanne Whiteside-Mansell, Professor of Family Medicine, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences,501-364-1874,WhitesideMansellLeanne@uams.edu.


COMMUNICATION CONTACTS:

Howell Medders, Division of Agriculture, 479-575-5647, hmedders@uark.edu

Paula Lawrence, Walton College of Business Administration, 479-575-8617, PLawrence@uark.edu.

Andrea Peel, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, 501-686-8996, PeelAndreaL@uams.edu.

Hilary DeMillo, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, 501-364-1100, DemilloHH@archildrens.org

Steve Voorhies, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, 479-575-3583, voorhies@uark.edu.

Download story

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – University of Arkansas scientists and educators are attacking childhood obesityin a project funded by a $4.78 million grant for five years fromthe National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The instituterecently announced thegrantfor the multi-campus project, “Interventions for Obesity Prevention Targeting Young Children in At-Risk Environments: An Integrated Approach.” The award was funded through the institute’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative competitive grants program.

Rudy Naygawill lead the project. He is aprofessor of agricultural economics and agribusiness in the U of A System’s statewide Division of Agriculture and holder of the Tyson Chair in Food Policy Economics in the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences on the Fayetteville campus.

“Our goals are to improve the diet and healthy behaviors of children, especially those at risk for obesity, and equip educators, childcare providers and other practitioners to tackle the childhood obesity crisis,” Nayga said.

Co-project directors representing several disciplinesare:
• Michael R. Thomsen, associate professor of agricultural economics and agribusiness, in the Division of Agriculture and Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences;
• Elizabeth Howlett, professor of marketing in the Sam M. Walton College of Business, University of Arkansas;
• Judith L. Weber, associate professor of pediatrics, College of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Research Institute in Little Rock; and
• Leanne Whiteside-Mansell, professors of family medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

Other faculty members playing key roles are Cynthia Moore, Mardel Crandall and Vernoice Baldwin in Bumpers College’s School of Human Environmental Sciences. The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement is also a partner on the project with leadership by Kenley Money and Tom Miyoshi.

“Childhood obesity is a complex and multifaceted problem,” Nayga said.“This project involves innovative research and educational programming that is designed to bring several complementary interventions to scale, each addressing different aspects of the childhood obesity crisis.”

“The project identifies characteristics of the food environment that contribute to childhood obesity and thereby enables the proposed interventions to target those children most atrisk for obesity, Nayga said. “The interventions are designed to improve the diets of young children, promote physical activity and encourage other healthy behaviors. These interventions are woven into a comprehensive curriculum designed for use in Head Start, preschool and early elementary classrooms.”

The project improves access to fresh fruits and vegetables via a direct farm-to-school distribution network linking local farmers to these schools, Nayga said.

“The project will also develop a formal education program to prepare the next generation of childcare providers, early childhood educators, and other career professionals so they will have a better understanding of childhood obesity and will be in a better position to address this crisis throughout their professional lives,” Nayga said. Educational programming will be disseminated through the Bumpers College’s School of Human Environmental Sciences.

Nayga said the project will work with four stakeholder groups, including children from age 2 through first grade; adults who shape the environment for young children; agencies and groups involved with food production, marketing, processing and distribution and nutrition in schools; university students preparing for careers that involve combating childhood obesity; and policy makers at the local, state and national level.