To Alice Ammerman, public health is public service

To her many talents, nutrition professor Alice Ammerman can now add hip-hop artist. The Thomas Jefferson Award winner accepted her award at the Sept. 8 Faculty Council meeting by performing a Hamilton-esque rap linking the Declaration of Independence author to recent “challenging times” on campus.

Her hair pulled into its customary no-nonsense bun, Ammerman drew chuckles from the audience as she rapped, concluding with this stanza:

Proud that UNC’s a place

Where social justice is no sham.

We can figure out together

What the heck to do with Sam.

Ammerman, director of the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and the inaugural Mildred Kaufman Distinguished Professor of Nutrition, also gave a shout out to the men in her life: her three sons, her husband and her 102-year-old father, Howard Ammerman, sitting in the front row of the Kerr Hall auditorium.

The citation for Ammerman’s award, read by Elizabeth Mayer-Davis, Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor of Nutrition and Medicine and chair of the nutrition department in the Gillings School of Global Public Health, praised the way Ammerman has consistently combined her public health research with public service.

“Her work is focused on reducing health inequities, particularly as it relates to diet and nutrition, and she’s worked in communities in some of the most vulnerable regions throughout our state,” Mayer-Davis read. “Dr. Ammerman is really the kind of senior faculty member who sets the standard for citizenship and service.”

In addition to heading one of the premier Centers for Disease Control-funded Prevention Research Centers in the country, Ammerman has co-led, with Marcie Cohen Ferris, the Food For All University-wide academic theme into its third year. The food theme has resulted in several campus and community programs and events, establishment of a multi-disciplinary gateway nutrition course for the campus, with plans underway for a food studies minor; and micro-grants to help campus and community entrepreneurs launch their ideas. Ammerman also teaches Public Health Entrepreneurship in the entrepreneurship minor program.

But she is probably best known as a researcher who is never afraid to tackle a new public health problem – and nearly every social ill is also a public health problem, as she sees it. Over the years, her center has taken on cardiovascular health in “the stroke belt” of the South, preschool nutrition and physical activity, self-management of chronic disease as well as empowerment and social support for poor and minority women.

“Part of the secret is being willing to get out of your comfort zone,” she explained. Researchers need to be able to say, “I know nothing about this particular health issue, but I I have experience working with communities and I’m anxious to learn more and work on the problem together.”

One of her newer projects addresses the opioid epidemic in rural areas. “We’re not going to arrest our way out of this as a solution,” she said. Ammerman partnered with a rural North Carolina county to write a grant proposal to fund a county-wide opioid task force and intervention. A glitch in the submission process meant that the proposal didn’t get submitted, but that didn’t stop Ammerman.

“As one of my department chairs once said, ‘Never let a good grant proposal die,’” she said. They are revising the proposal to include covering the cost of sending a local clinical social worker to get special training on innovative addiction therapy and to explore novel approaches like home detox.

Ammerman is always on the lookout for research opportunities that can benefit North Carolina. She recently collaborated with a former student, Stephanie Jilcott-Pitts, now on faculty at Eastern Carolina University. They wrote a proposal to evaluate recent state legislation providing grant funding for convenience stores in food deserts to purchase refrigeration equipment for the sale of healthier food options. After a couple of failed attempts, they are now awaiting word on funding from NIH.

Recognizing an opportunity to expand these efforts, Ammerman and a number of community partners applied for and received funding from the C. Felix Harvey Award to Advance Institutional Priorities at Carolina.

This grant involves creating healthy frozen meals from locally grown meat and produce to be stocked in those new freezers. The meals will be sold locally at higher prices to subsidize the lower cost of the same meals in the convenience stores. The concept is similar to the Toms shoes model, in which for every pair of shoes a customer buys, Toms donates a pair to a needy child.

In her quiet, determined style, Ammerman has pulled many different groups together to work on the project, tentatively called Farm Fresh Meals on the Go. First, she convinced Weaver Street Market to make the meals using her recipes and local ingredients and to sell them at a higher price that would subsidize the meals sold in convenience stores. The meals will be frozen by Seal the Seasons, a Carolina spin-out company that freezes vegetables that North Carolina farmers can’t sell fresh.

The program is just the latest example of how Ammerman looks at a local problem, figures out the public health angle and connects the people and ideas to solve them.

Saving the world, one research grant proposal at a time, is all in a day’s work for Ammerman. As she said in her acceptance of one of the faculty’s highest honors, “I’m really proud to be part of a University that highly values diversity, cares deeply about the people of our state, wrestles with difficult challenges and allows me to follow my passions while still calling it a job.”

This story was featured in the University Gazette on September 12th. 

Click here to see the full presentation, which starts around the 13 minute mark. 

Stephanie Wheeler honored with Hettleman award

Wheeler is a decision scientist whose research focuses on understanding and improving cancer care access, equity, quality, value and outcomes, with a focus on vulnerable populations.

She leads the national, multicenter, Centers for Disease Control-funded Cancer Prevention and Control Research Network, which focuses on dissemination and implementation of evidence-based cancer-focused interventions. She also co-directs the National Cancer Institute-funded Cancer Care Quality Training Program and the NCI-funded Geographic Management of Cancer Health Disparities Program.

Her work has resulted in 85 peer-reviewed publications, more than 100 public presentations at national conferences, symposia and other venues, and more than $10 million in grant funding.

“Stephanie’s strong passion for conducting policy-relevant public health research to reduce disparities among patients with cancer is palpable,” said Morris Weinberger, chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management. “Her research has spanned cancer care from screening to treatment and survivorship.”

Wheeler earned a doctorate at the Gillings School of Global Public Health before joining the health policy management faculty in 2010. Earlier this year, Wheeler received the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health Early Career Public Health Research Award.

Jo Anne L. Earp, research professor in the Department of Health Behavior, said Wheeler is becoming a nationally known “behavioral science interventionist” dedicated to closing racial divides in cancer treatment. “On top of her scholarly brilliance, she has superior management skills, budgetary savvy and a deep familiarity with working with large-scale secondary sources of data,” Earp said.

This piece was featured in the University Gazette on September 26th. 

UNC study shows need for increased support to North Carolina childcare workers

CHAPEL HILL- Teaching in childcare is a rewarding and important job, yet 42% of the North Carolina adults who provide childcare live below the national poverty threshold, 66% fight obesity, and 36% struggle with depression.  A recent study from UNC-Chapel Hill (UNC) researchers published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that the adults who care for North Carolina’s small children have challenges at work.

Researchers from UNC’s Caring and Reaching for Health (CARE) worksite wellness program analyzed health data for 674 childcare workers across seven counties in North Carolina as they began a program to analyze the health and working conditions of childcare workers. CARE is an initiative of the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention.

The CARE team found that 66% of childcare providers qualified as obese, and often they reported that they eat less than half of the USDA recommended level of fruits and vegetables in a day.  Complicating the situation even further, more than a third of the providers CARE assessed (36.1%) suffered symptoms of depression.

“The women who work at childcare centers are doing one of the most important jobs in our state, and many young children spend most of their waking hours in childcare” said Dianne Ward, Director of the UNC Children’s Healthy Weight Research Group, professor of nutrition in the Gillings School of Global Public Health and one of the study’s principal investigators. “Our findings underscore the importance of providing workers with tools and resources to lead healthier lives.”

Ward and Linnan

Dianne Ward, EdD, and Laura Linnan, ScD, Co-Principal Investigators of the CARE Study

Nearly half the people who care for North Carolina’s children when their parents are unavailable have incomes at or below the national poverty threshold for a family of three; 42% of workers in the study had a household income of less than $20,000 per year.

“Childcare providers are doubly stressed by low wages and demanding jobs. Focusing on the health of childcare workers is long overdue,” said Laura Linnan, ScD, lead author of the paper, co-principal investigator of the study and professor of health behavior at Gillings.  “We believe these results represent an important call to action for researchers, policy makers and community leaders who can advocate for living wages and access to more health-related programs at work for these important members of the workforce.”

CARE is a 5-year study which began in 2015 and uses a web-based tracking system to assist childcare workers set goals and monitor their physical activity. The study also provides resources to help workers eat healthier, quit smoking, and improve their sleeping habits. Furthermore, CARE research staff work with center directors to facilitate the adoption and implementation of workplace health and safety programs, policies, and supports to bolster the health and well-being of workers at participating centers. The research team will learn if these efforts to improve health behaviors lead to better health outcomes overall for participants in the study.  The study included participants from Cumberland, Rowan, Forsyth, Davidson, Franklin, Granville, and Vance counties.

Following baseline data collection, workers participate in a 6-month long workplace health and safety promotion program or an alternate financial health program.  The UNC team will publish results on the effectiveness of these programs in 2018.

For inquiries:

Sonya Sutton, HPDP Communications Specialist

919-966-4118

ssutton@unc.edu

 

Acknowledgements: NHLBI R01HL119568; CDC U48DP001944; www.chart.unc.edu; www.chaicore.com

Ammerman named first Mildred Kaufman Professor of nutrition

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 2.05.38 PMAlice Ammerman, DrPH, professor of nutrition at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and director of the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, has been named the inaugural Mildred Kaufman Professor of nutrition.

The professorship was announced at the Gillings School’s 49th annual Fred T. Foard Jr. Memorial Lecture on April 27, pending final approval by UNC’s Board of Trustees.

Ammerman, who joined the UNC faculty in 1991, has strong research and practice collaborations across North Carolina, especially in the area of childhood obesity. She serves on the statewide Childhood Obesity Study Committee, charged with recommending legislative action related to children’s nutrition and physical activity.

She is principal investigator for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded Center of Excellence for Training and Research Translation, charged with identification, translation and dissemination of evidence-based interventions for obesity and cardiovascular disease control and prevention.

Her research interests also include sustainable agriculture as it relates to improved nutrition, school nutrition policy in relation to childhood obesity, and social entrepreneurship as a sustainable approach for addressing public health concerns.

Mildred Kaufman, MPH, who died in 2016, was a former nutrition department chair (1987-1990) and faculty member (1977-1990) at the Gillings School and was a lifelong advocate for public health nutrition.

During a decade of work with the U.S. Public Health Service, she was involved with issues of chronic disease control, standard of food service and nutrition care for nursing homes.

Kaufman’s 12 years working with the State of Florida involved groundbreaking activities, including expanding the number of state nutritionists from 14 to 75 and advocating for the health needs of the migrant population in Florida. She became a national leader in the area of migrant health.

At UNC’s public health school, she was instrumental in developing the Master of Public Health (MPH) program as a means of interdisciplinary training. She developed an innovative MPH program, the first of its kind globally to combine registered dietitian (RD) training with obtaining an MPH degree.

The Mildred Kaufman Professorship was established in recognition of Kaufman’s contributions to practice, training, research and professional service in the field of public health nutrition. The holder of the distinguished professorship is one who honors the goals that guided Kaufman’s career, namely the development of a strong, active nutrition component as a vital element in comprehensive, life-cycle public health programs and services.

“As a student here at UNC, Alice was mentored by Mildred Kaufman,” said Elizabeth Mayer-Davis, PhD, Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor of nutrition and medicine and chair of the Gillings School’s Department of Nutrition. “Since those incredibly important formative years, Alice has been a true champion of public health nutrition, working to improve health and reduce health inequities through public health nutrition research, practice and policy, both here in North Carolina and nationally. I’m sure that Mildred would be as proud of Alice’s accomplishments as we are; it’s a true testament to Mildred’s legacy that Alice has had such a successful career to advance public health nutrition.”

Ammerman noted that Kaufman was chair of the nutrition department when she [Ammerman] was a master’s student at UNC.

“Mildred set a high standard for community engagement among public health nutrition professionals and addressing health disparities,” Ammerman said. “I continue to be inspired by her and strive to incorporate her vision into my own work. I’m therefore very pleased to be awarded a professorship named in her honor.”

Reposted from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health

UNC-Chapel Hill’s 2016 Harvey Award funds projects focused on hunger and educational success for children in foster care

(Chapel Hill, N.C.— April 20, 2017) – Faculty members from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and schools of medicine, education and social work will tackle the issues of local hunger and academic success for North Carolina foster children with funding provided by the 2016 C. Felix Harvey Award to Advance Institutional Priorities.

The Harvey Award reflects a core Carolina value—serving the public good—by recognizing exemplary faculty scholarship that addresses real-world challenges and reflects the University’s commitment to entrepreneurship and innovation.

Dr. Alice Ammerman, director of the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and professor of nutrition, Gillings School of Global Public Health and School of Medicine, will lead a coalition of community partners to increase access to healthy food for low-income consumers.

“This venture provides access to healthy food for low-income community members while also providing economic opportunities for local farmers and retailers,” said Ammerman. “The project will develop a sales model with dual price points—full price or slightly higher at an upscale food store, and significantly reduced prices at four small community grocery stores.”

The group will use local food production facilities and seasonally available local food to create healthy frozen meals that will be offered for sale at local markets. While inspired by the Mediterranean diet, the recipes will be adapted for the southern palate, featuring southern vegetables and locally produced meats. Local partners include Weaver Street Market, Carolina student start-up Seal the Seasons and Farmer Foodshare among others.

This year, through the generosity of the McNairy Foundation and the C. Felix Harvey Award endowment, a second award will fund a team developing a program to meet the academic needs of children in foster care: Dr. Molly Berkoff, associate professor of pediatrics and medical director of the Child Medical Evaluation Program and Child Protection Team, School of Medicine; Dr. Robert Martinez Jr., assistant professor, School of Education; and Laura Phipps, clinical assistant professor at the Family and Children’s Resource Program, Jordan Institute for Families at the School of Social Work.

Together, they will develop an online training toolkit to guide child welfare social workers as they assist foster care children and advocate for their academic needs. Some studies show that less than 60 percent of students in foster care finish high school, and among those who do, only 3 percent pursue postsecondary education. Though North Carolina currently has a strong child welfare system, there are no training tools focused on the specific academic needs of foster children. This project will assist with development of resources for both child welfare and the North Carolina school system to use in local districts.

“I’m very passionate about this work,” said Berkoff. “Since I arrived at Carolina in 2003, I’ve worked with children who have been victims of abuse and neglect, focusing on their medical needs. Many of them are in foster care and over time I realized that we could work better with our partners in the school system and the child welfare system to meet their educational needs.”

The late C. Felix Harvey was chairman of Harvey Enterprises & Affiliates and founder of the Little Bank Inc., both in Kinston, North Carolina. A 1943 Carolina graduate, he joined his family in 2007 to endow the award with a $2 million commitment. Five generations of Harveys have earned UNC-Chapel Hill degrees.

No Kid Hungry Graduate Research Assistant, Jessica Soldavini, receives Community Engagement Fellowship

Soldavini

Jessica Soldavini

Jessica Soldavini, a Graduate Research Assistant for No Kid Hungry, recently received a Community Engagement Fellowship for her Food for the Summer project.

The Community Engagement Fellowship program awards a maximum of seven fellowships of up to $2,000 each year to develop and implement engagement or engaged scholarship projects that employ innovative, sustainable approaches to complex social needs and have an academic connection. Returning, full-time graduate students at UNC-Chapel Hill are eligible to apply. Previous fellows are eligible to apply for an additional year of funding. Fellows work in collaboration with community partners and faculty mentors who are familiar with their topics or geographic areas, while fellows are responsible for the major planning and implementation of their projects. The fellowships run from March-November with project implementation occurring during the summer.

Soldavini’s Food for the Summer project provides free meals and enrichment activities for children up to 18 years old who live in low-income areas in Chapel Hill and Carrboro during the summer when school is out. Last summer, the program used an innovative model to serve more than 48,000 meals. This project will evaluate of the Food for the Summer program in partnership with an evaluation subcommittee. Teen ambassadors from the neighborhoods served by Food for the Summer will also be engaged in the project. Evaluation methods include analyzing Summer Food Service program data; developing tracking systems for activities; and conducting surveys, interviews and/or focus groups with program participants and other key stakeholders. Evaluation results will be used to identify program outcomes and successes, determine which program components are most successful and identify areas of improvement. Results will also help secure future funding and inform a sustainability. Evaluation results will be shared with other communities to help inform Summer Nutrition Program efforts across the state and country.

For more information on the Community Engagement Fellowship, as well as other recipients of the award, click here.

Schneider to receive Paper of the Year Award from the Society for Public Health Education

Ellen Caylor Schneider

Ellen Caylor Schneider

Ellen C. Schneider, MBA, Research Scientist at HPDP, will receive the Sarah Mazelis Best Paper of the Year Award for Health Promotion Practice on March 31st at the Society for Public Health Education’s (SOPHE) Awards Ceremony in Denver, CO. This ceremony takes place during SOPHE’s 68th Annual Meeting entitled Scaling New Heights: Health for All.

The award-winning paper, State Fall Prevention Coalitions as Systems Change Agents: An Emphasis on Policy, was co-authored by HPDP Research Fellows Tiffany Shubert, PhD, MPT, and Mary Altpeter, PhD. The authors analyzed the implementation of falls prevention policies in accordance with the National Council on Aging’s Falls Free® Initiative. Results showed that statewide Fall Prevention Coalitions are pursuing and implementing these policies but could benefit from additional resources and technical assistance. This study is the first national census of empirical evidence regarding these programs.

The Sarah Mazelis Paper of the Year Award is given to authors published in Health Promotion Practice whose findings have made significant contributions to health education and policy. This award commemorates Sarah Mazelis, who was a renowned practitioner, health educator, and member of the SOPHE.

For more information about the SOPHE 2017 award winners, please click here.

 

The UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention is a Prevention Research Center funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Media Contact: Sonya Sutton, ssutton@unc.edu; 919-966-4118

 

HPDP receives $1.5 million to develop diabetes self-management education toolkit

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 2.05.38 PM

Alice Ammerman, DrPH

CHAPEL HILL, NC – The Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (HPDP), a CDC Prevention Research Center, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was awarded a $1.5 million contract to develop a national toolkit for public health and clinical providers to assure that people with diabetes have access to evidence-based education and support programs to help manage their condition.

Diabetes self-management education and support (DSMES) programs aim to prevent or delay the complications of diabetes. While proven to be cost-saving and have a positive impact on diabetes-related outcomes, DSMES programs remain underutilized among patients and health care professionals. The goal of this project is to expand access to DSMES programs to ensure that all people with diabetes are able to receive the care they need. The research team will market the programs to state health departments to help the health departments distribute the program across their states.

UNC investigators Alice Ammerman, DrPH, director of HPDP and professor of nutrition in the Gillings School of Global Public Health, Thomas Keyserling, MD, MPH, professor of internal medicine in the School of Medicine, Carmen-Samuel Hodge, RD, PhD, research assistant professor of nutrition at Gillings, Greg Randolph, MD, MPH in the department of pediatrics at the School of Medicine and Hugh Waters, PhD, associate professor in the School of Nursing will be partnering with Population Health Improvement Partners (PHIP), People Designs, RTI International, and the RTI-UNC Consortium for Implementation Science (CIS) on this project. The project is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We are delighted to have this opportunity to work with partners at the CDC and with our colleagues in the clinical and public health communities through this project,” said Ammerman. “The DSMES programs have the potential for enormous positive impact if we can develop, implement, and market a Toolkit that helps overcome the challenges provider, patient, and system levels.”

The research team will develop a strategic marketing plan for the toolkit to make sure that all audiences who could benefit from this project will be reached. Diabetes professionals across the United States will be trained to use these tools through a series of webinars and in-person training sessions.

“This toolkit will be a one-stop resource for creating, implementing, sustaining and maintaining a DSMES program that meets the highest quality standards set by the American Diabetes Association and the American Association of Diabetes Educators,” said Joanne Rinker, Senior Director For Community Health Improvement at PHIP.  “We look forward to completing this work over the next 3 years and how it will impact access to diabetes self-management education.”

The UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention is a Prevention Research Center funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Media Contact: Sonya Sutton, ssutton@unc.edu; 919-966-4118

HPDP Research Fellow honored by Obesity Society

“The impact of their work will be felt for many years to come.”

Dianne Stanton Ward, EdD, a fellow at the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (HPDP), was recently awarded the the 2016 Oded Bar-Or Award at ward_dianne_2014the annual meeting of The Obesity Society, called “Obesity Week.” This award recognizes an individual selected by the Pediatric Obesity Section for contributions to pediatric obesity research and advances in the scientific understanding of etiology, prevention and treatment of obesity.  Ward was recognized alongside Deborah Tate, PhD, a professor of nutrition and of health behavior at UNC that won the 2016 Pioneer Award.

Ward has worked as a principal investigator for the Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-Assessment (NAP SACC) program, a research program based at HPDP. NAP SACC promotes healthy eating and physical activity in young children in child care and preschool settings. Ward is also the head of HPDP’s Children’s Healthy Weight Research Group, which leads multiple research projects dedicated to improving the health of young children.

Elizabeth Mayer-Davis, PhD, Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor of nutrition and medicine at UNC, was not short in her praise of these two women. “Both of them have collaborated extensively here at UNC, and their work has contributed substantially to the field,” Mayer-Davis said. “It is important also to recognize that both have been very much engaged in training students and fellows. The impact of their work will be felt for many years to come.”

To learn more about this topic, click here:

http://sph.unc.edu/sph-news/ward-tate-honored-by-the-obesity-society/

HPDP Research at APHA 2016

HPDP researchers are presenting their work at the American Public Health Association’s 2016 Annual Meeting and Expo. This year’s theme is “Creating the Healthiest Nation: Ensuring the Right to Health”. The meeting is from October 29 to November 2 in Denver, Colorado. HPDP research that will be presented includes: