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University of Iowa News Release

Dec. 8, 2005

UI College Of Public Health Receives Grant To Address Childhood Obesity

The University of Iowa College of Public Health has received a $199,997 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to help reduce obesity in schoolchildren by promoting nutritious eating habits and enhancing physical activity. 

The project staff will work in close collaboration with the school district and community members in Muscatine, Iowa, to develop evidence-based strategies that encourage a healthy lifestyle.

"Since the 1970s, the city of Muscatine has seen an increasing prevalence of overweight children, as has most of the nation," said Linda Snetselaar, Ph.D., UI professor of epidemiology and director of the grant project. "It's important to establish healthy eating patterns and exercise practices in children to protect against chronic disease risks related to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer."

The 18-month planning project initially will focus on collecting information to provide a baseline assessment of the Muscatine community and help guide future nutrition and exercise interventions. The project will involve the school district's superintendent, principals, teachers, parents, business leaders and community members, including representatives from Muscatine's substantial Hispanic population.

"Nearly 20 percent of the Muscatine student body is Hispanic. Involving this community in the planning process is particularly important because the prevalence of overweight and obesity is very high in Hispanic populations," Snetselaar said.

The Muscatine area, as in many communities throughout Iowa, has distinct needs related to its rural setting and close ties to food production and processing. It is expected that strategies and models developed through this project could be extended and customized to other school districts in Iowa.

Additional UI faculty involved in the project include co-director Neal Kohatsu, M.D., associate professor of epidemiology; Lawrence Prybil, Ph.D., professor of health management and policy; and Joseph Cavanaugh, Ph.D., associate professor of biostatistics.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation was established in 1930 "to help people help themselves through the practical application of knowledge and resources to improve their quality of life and that of future generations." Its programming activities center around the common vision of a world in which each person has a sense of worth; accepts responsibility for self, family, community, and societal well-being; and has the capacity to be productive, and to help create nurturing families, responsive institutions, and healthy communities.

To achieve the greatest impact, the foundation targets its grants toward specific areas. These include: health; food systems and rural development; youth and education; and philanthropy and volunteerism. Within these areas, attention is given to exploring learning opportunities in leadership; information and communication technology; capitalizing on diversity; and social and economic community development. Grants are concentrated in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the southern African countries of Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa College of Public Health Office of Communications, 4257 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242.

MEDIA CONTACT: Debra Venzke, 319-335-9647, debra-venzke@uiowa.edu