Marsha Davis, an associate professor in the College of Public Health’s department of health promotion and behavior, has received a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The five-year grant will support a community-based childhood obesity prevention program in Colquitt County, located in southwest Georgia.
The prevention program’s key partners are the public health college and the Colquitt County community and elementary schools. The College of Family and Consumer Sciences and Cooperative Extension will provide additional support for the effort.
The program, Davis said, is being designed to engage 600 third graders through an obesity-prevention program that includes their families, schools and community. Her goal is to equip children in Colquitt County with the practical skills they need to become “change agents” for their families and schools.
“Because obesity is such a complex issue, we need to work with the community,” Davis said. “Families and schools represent the most important targets for obesity prevention efforts in children. In addition to adopting better habits for themselves at an early age, children also can work to alter behaviors among the adults in the community.”
The students will participate in a school curriculum that will promote healthy eating habits and physical activity and teach them how to share the lessons they learn. Interactive workshops will be held for parents with sessions focusing on practical strategies for increasing availability and accessibility of healthy foods in the home, reducing TV time and planning for healthy meals.
“We’re hoping the children will help their families eat better, be more physically active and, ultimately, become advocates for a healthy community,” Davis said.
Davis’ program grew out of initiatives associated with the Archway Partnership. Colquitt County has been very active in creating community-wide environmental and policy changes to encourage healthy living, such as farmers’ markets, school gardens, walking trails and mobile vans to deliver produce to areas in the county that don’t have easy access to fresh food. If successful, Davis said the program could be disseminated throughout Georgia.