A new partnership with NC State aims to bring more strategic obesity prevention services to those with a limited budget in underserved communities. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been chosen to house one of four new Regional Centers of Excellence in Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention to help nutritional assistance services improve their obesity prevention efforts for families receiving these subsidies.
The center, funded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will work with the supplemental nutrition assistance program-education (SNAP-Ed) and the expanded food and nutrition education program (EFNEP) to pool their resources and develop and evaluate innovative strategies to help people eligible for these government subsidies make healthy choices within a limited budget.
“Until now, EFNEP and SNAP-Ed have largely worked in parallel to reduce obesity in low-income populations, but the focus of this center will be to better coordinate efforts, enhance intervention approaches and assess impact,” said Alice Ammerman, director of the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and professor of nutrition in the Gillings School of Global Public Health. “We will be able to gain valuable insights by working together and strengthen the impact of all our activities to improve the health of children and families.”
Ammerman will lead the center, in collaboration with Molly De Marco, Daniella Uslan and Stephanie Bomberger at UNC-Chapel Hill. Lorelei Jones, coordinator of the nutrition education program at NC State University, will be the co-director of the center. The obesity prevention research expertise at the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and the program expertise and community knowledge at NC State will drive the $856,250 project, which will rely on building strong collaborative relationships between state and county teams in 13 southern states and two territories to extend the programs’ outreach and impacts.
“This is an exciting opportunity to put research into practice, to translate the research to community educational programs to prevent obesity and improve the lives of families served by SNAP-Ed and EFNEP across the region,” said Jones.
The southern regional center will administer a coordinated regional research project through mini-grants given to selected SNAP-Ed and EFNEP agencies within the region. All agencies will be eligible to apply for the grants. The center will also test innovative intervention ideas developed by community partners.
Colorado State University, Cornell University and Purdue University serve as the other regional centers. The University of Kentucky will serve as the national coordinating center for the program.
“This new center provides an exciting opportunity to achieve HPDP’s core mission to support high quality research in vulnerable populations,” said Ammerman. “We look forward to further enhancing our collaboration with NC State and those across the southern region to develop and implement a research agenda to tackle obesity, in which disproportionately affects low-income populations.”
The UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention is a CDC Prevention Research Center.
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