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College of Human Ecology

$4.5 million research grant may lead to healthier children

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Paula Peters and Sandy Procter will lead a seven-state research effort to improve children’s food choices and health and reduce obesity with a five-year research grant, valued at $4,500,652, from USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture.

Procter will serve as director for the grant. Elaine Johannes, assistant professor in FSHS, will be a collaborator.

The grant is expected to generate relevant, research-based information that the Extension network can disseminate.

“The national effort to address obesity is challenging – and exciting,” said Paula Peters, assistant director, K-State Research and Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences. She coordinated the grant application process. K-State will serve in a leadership role for land-grant universities in six other states: Indiana, Michigan, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

The grant opportunity will target children aged 2 to 8, said Peters, who explained that K-State’s multi-state proposal chose to focus on 4-year-olds whose food choices are influenced by their parents, extended family and the community in which children attend day care, preschool, etc.

“Research efforts will focus on improving food choices and choosing a healthy lifestyle that balances calories and physical activity,” Peters said.

“The K-State proposal suggested comparative studies in which two rural communities per state will participate in a collaborative effort to address specific local needs for nutrition and physical activity opportunities for the young children. One will receive help from a community coach and one will not,” she said.

The first year will be invested in setting the standards for choosing the study communities, developing a needs assessment tool, and surveying nutrition and physical activity education materials available, Peters said.

The second year will involve hiring and training community coaches and supporting collaborations within the communities to enhance healthy eating and physical activity for their 4-year-olds, she added.

The third through fifth years will be invested in delivering and monitoring the effectiveness of a community coach in improving the nutrition and physical activity opportunities for 4-year-olds in the selected communities.

Effective nutrition education will involve cultural changes, Peters said. Part of challenge in nutrition education is creating a sustainable, health-promoting environment.

Prepared by K-State Research and Extension News Media Services and Human Ecology communications

This article was posted on Thursday, May 19, 2011, and is filed under College News, Family Studies & Human Services, Food, Nutrition, Dietetics and Health.