August 28, 2009

Grant to support anti-obesity work in Latino community

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Shari Barkin, M.D.

Grant to support anti-obesity work in Latino community

Vanderbilt’s Shari Barkin, M.D., has been named one of 20 recipients nationwide to receive funding from a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation program aimed at finding solutions to the growing problem of childhood obesity in the Latino community.

The program, Salud America!, will provide close to $100,000 over two years for Barkin, director of General Pediatrics at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, and her colleagues to study how public recreation centers can be better used by Latino families as a place to get more exercise.

Barkin said one of the reasons Vanderbilt was successful in being selected for the grant is its involvement in The Nashville Collaborative, a partnership between Children's Hospital and Metro’s Parks & Recreation Department to develop and test innovative, family-based, community-centered programs to reduce pediatric obesity.

“Ours is the only group among the Salud America! recipients focusing on how local Latino families make use of city and county recreational facilities to increase activity levels in their children. We will look across all 24 Metro Parks and Recreation locations over the next two years,” Barkin said.

Evidence will be collected from surveys and interviews and will include scientific review of physical activity interventions led by Vanderbilt researchers in the Nashville Collaborative.

The Collaborative currently conducts several “learning lab” projects designed by investigators to prevent and intervene early in pediatric obesity among Latino families and their children. It also supports education initiatives like a teaching kitchen, and offers services like health fairs provided by Meharry and Vanderbilt medical students.

“In primary care, we talk about the importance of people having a medical home within a physician practice they trust. Likewise, for sustainable behavior change, we talk about the notion of creating a physical activity home. The Salud America! Grant allows us to test this premise,” Barkin said.

Barkin will attend a meeting in mid-September in which all grantees will review their research plans to settle on common best-practices and find ways to dovetail their projects into a larger body of work.

Grantees will study potential solutions to barriers involving everything from accessibility of healthy foods and places to exercise to difficulties dealing with time constraints and child care within the Latino community.

The goal of Salud America! is to find evidence-based policies that can be implemented to address Latino childhood obesity in ways that can be sustained.