Friday, December 19th, 2014

Obesity


CHIP obesity research seeks to understand and change the individual, social, and environmental factors contributing to our nation’s obesity epidemic. Examples of ongoing CHIP obesity research projects include: (1) working with parents and pediatricians in Hartford to address childhood obesity in children as young as two years of age, (2) studying the cultural contexts of health disparities among adolescent girls, with a specific focus on weight/obesity and reproductive health in Latina and African American girls known to be at greatest risk with regard to these two health outcomes, (3) involving spouses or partners in weight loss efforts, and (4) analyzing the impact of food advertisements and public service announcements (PSAs) on child and teen eating habits and weight.

New work in this area during FY13 includes (1) a grant addressing barriers to weight loss in submariners, (2) a CHIP-funded pilot study to develop a virtual health coach app to promote weight loss and maintenance of weight loss, (3) pilot research to understand possible paternal influences on childhood obesity, and (4) pilot research to understand the potential of infant sleep training to positively affect new mothers’ sleep and, consequently, postpartum exercise and weight loss patterns.

An obesity research interest group at CHIP includes faculty members from UConn’s Psychology, Kinesiology, Nursing, Nutritional Sciences, Pediatrics, Public Health, and Communication Sciences departments with a common interest in understanding, preventing, and treating obesity and related co-morbidities. The goal of the group, which is affiliated with the Connecticut Institute of Clinical and Translational Science (CICATS) at the UConn Health Center, is to bring together researchers within the greater Connecticut community who have expertise in obesity, nutrition and physical activity to identify opportunities for collaboration. One example of this type of working collaboration is the Hartford Childhood Wellness Alliance (HCWA) based at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, which aims to prevent and decrease childhood obesity in Hartford and improve the overall health of children. The HCWA consists of community organizations, schools, early childhood education and daycare, local and regional government, advocacy groups, health care centers and practitioners, researchers in public health and the social sciences, and community members. Those interested in joining CHIP’s obesity research interest group may contact CHIP Principal Investigator and  Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology Amy Gorin at amy.gorin@uconn.edu.

Additionally, CHIP’s health psychologists Rick Gibbons and Meg Gerrard have been conducting The Family and Community Health Study (FACHS), a longitudinal study of psychosocial factors related to the physical and mental health of African American families, for more than 15 years. The largest such study conducted to date in the US, FACHS began with 900 families and has followed them across 6 waves, with a specal focus on the adolescents who were age 10 at Wave 1 (age 26 at Wave 6) and their parents. An ongoing study, FACHS examines the impact of stressors, such as racial discrimination, environmental risk, and low socioeconomic status (SES), as well as buffers, such as racial socialization and racial identity, on outcomes including substance use, obesity, and disease. A new project in this area uses both experimental (lab) and survey methods to examine the effects of media portrayals of substance use (alcohol and tobacco, and also food) on the health behaviors of adolescents, with a focus on self-control as an individual difference factor that moderates the processes underlying the media effects.

CHIP obesity investigators are encouraged to develop collaborative research partnerships with the many obesity specialists working at the UConn Health Center and across the regional campuses. Important projects that address the topic of obesity include the Healthy Food Environments Initiative at UConn, which promotes community-wide approaches to prevent obesity and increase food security through healthy food environments and increased physical activity, and the Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace (CPH-NEW) at the UConn Health Center, which designs multifaceted health promotion interventions to improve worker health.

CHIP Obesity Resources

CHIP Obesity Researchers

One-click Distribution List
Interested in sharing ideas and resources with your colleagues in obesity research and even finding a potential collaborator? Subscribe to the Obesity RIG Mailing list by emailing Jennifer Wang at jennifer.wang@chip.uconn.edu. Then, by mailing UCONN_OBESITY_RIG-L@LISTSERV.UCONN.EDU, you’ll be able to email your fellow obesity researchers at CHIP all at once and get the conversation started. The listserv allows you to reach CHIP researchers and members of the Obesity Research Interest Group at UConn, UCHC, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, and affiliated community partners.