June 20, 2008

Projects to examine different aspects of diabetes, obesity

Featured Image

For their community projects, dietetic interns Jenny Cooper, left, and Megan Roth developed plans to bring more locally grown produce to Vanderbilt’s Courtyard Cafe and chef Alex Perrone. (photo by Neil Brake)

Projects to examine different aspects of diabetes, obesity

Four Vanderbilt Medical Center physicians received Project Diabetes grants from the Tennessee Center for Diabetes Prevention and Health Improvement, which fund education, prevention and treatment programs for diabetes and obesity.

Russell Rothman, M.D., and Mary Kate Mouser both received planning grants in the amount of $49,460. Shari Barkin, M.D., and Bettina Beech, Dr.P.H., M.P.H., received implementation grants in the amount of $250,000.

• Rothman's project is entitled “Improving Health Communication to Help Prevent Childhood Obesity.” He and collegues will assess the efficacy of a low-literacy oriented intervention to promote healthy family lifestyles and prevent early childhood obesity.

Through collaborations with Vanderbilt, Meharry Medical College and the Metro Nashville WIC Clinics, 100 English or Spanish-speaking caregivers and their children (age 4-18 months) will be enrolled from primary care clinics and followed for six months.

The intervention will include a low-literacy oriented toolkit for health providers to use with families and clear health communication training.

Rothman is an assistant professor of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics and director of the Vanderbilt Program in Effective Health Communication.

• Mouser's “Commit to Be Fit Middle Tennessee” program will develop a plan to provide high quality, affordable foods to low-income households.

Through a partnership with the Veggie Project, a product of the Children's Health Improvement and Prevention Program (VCHIP) of the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, farmers’ markets will be brought to four area Boys & Girls Clubs.

Because these clubs are in low-income “food deserts” that lack quality grocery stores with fresh produce, access to and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables will benefit these areas.

The project will also integrate physical activity and nutrition education into core programming offered at Boys & Girls Clubs and foster family involvement in practicing a healthy lifestyle.

Mouser is director of Children's Health Improvement and Prevention.

• Barkin's project is entitled “Salud Con La Familia: Preventing the Onset of Pediatric Obesity and Diabetes in Latino Families.” Barkin and her team will focus on Latino children ages 3-8 and their families, due to the disproportionate rate of diabetes in this ethnic group.

Promising obesity interventions use the parent-child partnership in setting clear goals to improve health. Consequently, Barkin will implement an intervention for Latino families with young children that includes parent training, behavior modification, nutrition education and physical activity promotion.

She will examine how this intervention affects growth trajectories in children, parenting practices around nutrition and daily physical activity in Latino families, and body fat composition in participating children and parents.

Barkin is chief of the Division of General Pediatrics.

• Beech's program, “Weight Gain Prevention Among Latina Girls,” will be directed at Hispanic females because their age of onset of excess obesity, formerly young adulthood, is now younger.

All Hispanics are also disproportionately affected by obesity and diabetes. She will tailor a recently successful childhood obesity prevention program originally developed for African-American girls to implement and evaluate with preadolescent Hispanic girls, hoping to demonstrate the benefit of a community-based participatory approach in conducting weight gain prevention interventions.

Beech is associate director of Health Disparities Research and director of Public Health Research and Evaluation.