KU part of group gauging effectiveness of juvenile obesity prevention programs

The Work Group for Community Health and Development is part of a group of research entities that has been awarded a $23 million grant to study community efforts to prevent childhood obesity.

Stephen Fawcett

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has awarded a grant to Battelle Memorial Institute of Columbus, Ohio — with sub-awards to scientific partners at the University of California-Berkley, University of South Carolina and KU — to examine what community interventions lead to improvements in childhood obesity. The research will draw on a national sample of about 300 communities and 30,000 children. The KU team will lead the community measurement core, developing and assuring quality measures of what communities are doing to prevent childhood obesity.

Rates of childhood obesity are increasing dramatically in the United States. In response, many federal agencies and private foundations are investing in community efforts to prevent childhood obesity.

But according to Stephen Fawcett, director of the Work Group and the Kansas Health Foundation Professor of Applied Behavioral Science, little is known about what community programs and policies are being implemented and their effects.

“This unprecedented study will help us better understand what works in community efforts to prevent childhood obesity and under what conditions they work,” he said. “It will yield the largest database of practice- and evidence-based community programs and policies for preventing childhood obesity.”

The Work Group’s innovative approaches to measuring community programs and policies and analyzing their impact on population-health improvement will be featured in the study. The community measurement core will assure systematic measurement of community efforts to prevent childhood obesity. The KU team will help conduct analyses of possible associations between community programs and policies and the body mass index of children.

Primary goals of the study are to:

• Identify community programs and policies that help reduce childhood obesity rates to better inform public health practice and policy

• Identify associations between community programs/policies and impacts and outcomes with childhood obesity

• Communicate study results, including information on the most promising community program and policy approaches, using Web-based tools and reports, publications and conferences.

The study is made possible by a funding consortium that includes multiple institutes within the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and other private foundations. NHLBI is the lead sponsor, with additional support from NIH’s National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research.

The Work Group is one of 13 centers of the Life Span Institute, one of the largest research and development programs in the nation for the translation of scientific discovery to benefit health and human development.

For more information, go to communityhealth.ku.edu.

Campus closeup
Rafe Brown, herpetology, Natural History Museum curator
Read more


The University of Kansas prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, national origin, age, ancestry, disability, status as a veteran, sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, gender identity, gender expression, and genetic information in the university’s programs and activities. Retaliation is also prohibited by university policy. The following persons have been designated to handle inquiries regarding the nondiscrimination policies and are the Title IX coordinators for their respective campuses: Executive Director of the Office of Institutional Opportunity & Access, IOA@ku.edu, 1246 West Campus Road, Room 153A, Lawrence, KS 66045, 785-864-6414, 711 TTY (for the Lawrence, Edwards, Parsons, Yoder, and Topeka campuses); Director, Equal Opportunity Office, Mail Stop 7004, 4330 Shawnee Mission Parkway, Fairway, KS 66205, 913-588-8011, 711 TTY (for the Wichita, Salina, and Kansas City, Kansas, medical center campuses).