Campus News

UGA researchers receive funding to reduce childhood obesity in Georgia

UGA researchers recently received funding to find ways to prevent or reduce childhood obesity, a health crisis of epidemic proportions in Georgia, through partnerships among University System of Georgia institutions and local communities.

Three of the four projects funded by the University System of Georgia are headed by or include UGA researchers. Two projects aim to reduce childhood obesity by working with after-school ­programs, while a third aims to reduce obesity in newborns by reaching pregnant and post-partum women through local obstetricians.

“Broad-based community partnerships, as exemplified by UGA’s Archway Partnership project, have the potential to be more effective and more sustainable than other approaches in addressing childhood obesity,” said David Lee, UGA vice president for research. “With faculty experts in nutrition, school exercise programs, health-risk communications, the use of new media to better communicate with youth, health policies and assessment of intervention methods, UGA is in a unique position to join with our state’s communities to develop, implement and evaluate obesity prevention efforts.”

This fall in Athens-Clarke County, Phillip Tomporowski and Bryan McCullick, faculty members in the department of kinesiology in the College of Education, and Catherine Davis, a clinical health psychologist at the Medical College of Georgia, will begin a project to introduce fun and effective exercise games into the Clarke County after-school program curriculum.

In a second project, researchers will work through YMCA after-school programs in Colquitt County and with the Healthy Colquitt Coalition to increase children’s physical activity, healthy eating habits and family involvement-all known strategies for reducing childhood obesity.

The researchers are working with UGA’s Archway Partnership, one of eight programs in the state through which the university lends its expertise to address community-identified problems.

In Statesboro, a third project will use the Internet and social media to encourage physical activity in women during pregnancy and after childbirth. Research has shown a critical link exists between childhood obesity and the prenatal health behaviors and gestational weight gain of the mother, yet only a third of U.S. women gain weight within the recommended range during pregnancy, and less than a quarter meet minimum daily exercise recommendations.