Arnold School part of major study on childhood obesity
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 to reduce 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 to halt the number of children who are becoming overweight and obese. Researchers will focus on 300 communities throughout the nation.
Dr. Russ Pate, a professor of exercise science at the Arnold School, is a co-principal investigator on the study, which 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 factors associated with physical environmental.
“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.
Pate said it’s likely that South Carolina communities will be included in the research.
Other USC researchers involved with the study are Dr. Edward Frongillo, Dr. Robert McKeown, Dr. Saundra Glover, Dr. Melinda Forthofer, Dr. Sonya Jones and Dr. Natalie Colabianchi, all from the Arnold School of Public Health, and Dr. Dawn Wilson of the department of psychology.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Agriculture also are contributors to the study.