The College of Public Health and Human Sciences has received a $4.8 million grant to develop an obesity prevention program for children in rural Oregon. Roger Beachy, director of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), announced the award during a press conference on the OSU campus January 13, 2011. “Childhood obesity is a problem many families face across the nation,” he said. “However, children in rural areas face obstacles such as limited access to fresh healthy food, physical activity and recreational programs that help prevent obesity.”
Project directors Deborah John and Kathy Gunter were awarded $4,878,865 to start the program, called “Generating Rural Options for Weight-Healthy Kids and Communities” (GROW HKC). Deborah and Kathy hold faculty positions in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences and OSU Extension Family and Community Health. Cooperative Extension in Oregon and six other Western states will develop a plan to prevent obesity among rural children and field test it in rural communities within three Oregon counties: Clackamas, Columbia and Klamath. The grant is awarded through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI).
The project’s Oregon State University advisory team members will include faculty from public health; nutrition; exercise sciences; human development and family sciences; education; and OSU Extension’s Family and Community Health, Master Gardner, and 4-H programs.
Extension specialists from Oregon and partner states Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Washington, Texas also are part of the team, as are school district superintendents, health care providers and parents and volunteer groups. The team will use the assessments to begin an obesity-intervention program in September 2012 in the three Oregon counties to promote healthy eating and physical activity. The goal is to improve the body mass index among rural children aged 5-8 years old.
“Rural populations, particularly rural children, by the very nature of rurality and rural living, are often faced with fewer personal choices to support healthy lifestyle behaviors – fewer places to walk or bike ride safely, buy fresh, healthy foods and snacks, participate in organized physical activity and/or sport programs, and possibly less time in the day for families to share healthy, nutritious meals and play actively together. The result is an energy equation that is out of balance – too many calories in, not enough calories burned. We believe that through our project activities, and with input of rural people, we will be able to shift the rural behavioral settings – increasing the supports and removing barriers to eating healthfully and being physically active every day at home, in school, and in the community – thus making healthier choices the easier, and valued, choices for rural children and their families.” Project director Deborah John commented.