Researchers receive $5 million NIH grant to reduce childhood obesity disparities

A research team led by the University of Minnesota Medical School has been awarded a $5 million grant from the National Institute of Health (NIH) to conduct a clinical trial that hopes to identify the most effective approach to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in childhood obesity.

Lead investigator of the study, Jerica Berge, PhD, MPH, LMFT, CFLE, is a professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the U of M Medical School and will lead an interdisciplinary team of researchers at the U of M and the University of Georgia.

The study will use combinations of intervention methods - including ecological momentary intervention, home visiting and video feedback in partnership with community health workers. The ecological momentary intervention method, defined as real-time treatments provided to people via their smartphones during their everyday lives, will provide parents with stress reduction tips and resources.

Virtual or hybrid home visits and video feedback will be delivered by community health workers to provide counseling on the home food environment. The team will use the intervention methods to examine whether or not increasing the quality and quantity of family meals reduces childhood obesity disparities.

With the low-to-moderate success with childhood obesity interventions to date and the persistent obesity disparities across race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status, there is a need to approach childhood obesity in a new and innovative way. We hope this study will change clinical practice by creating a new model of treatment to be used in primary care settings to reduce childhood obesity disparities."

Jerica Berge, PhD, MPH, LMFT, CFLE, Professor, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, U of M Medical School

The five-year grant is supported by the NIH National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

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