Arkansas Receives $9.4 Million For Childhood Obesity Studies
One of the top states in the nation that the epidemic of childhood obesity has impacted has received an infusion of $94 million in grant monies from the National Institutes of Health. The monies are earmarked to create and fund the ACRI (Arkansas Center for Health Improvement) at the Arkansas Children’s Research Institute.
While the national average for childhood obesity is about one-third of the entire youth population, children in Arkansas outrank the national average, with 39 percent of the state’s kids considered in the “overweight” and “obese” categories. In fact, Arkansas ranks one of the nation’s worst in terms of childhood obesity.
Researchers, including its leader Judith Weber will start from the time that children are still in utero in attempts to nip obesity before a child is even born. Many mothers, for example, who are obese during pregnancy can birth offspring who have a tendency towards obesity.
Another measure is to begin in the preschool age level to target obesity, by promoting better diet, exercise and education for small children, who are becoming more at risk because of the increased access to unhealthy foods and sedentary lifestyles.
Weber says that data collected will be used for education within Arkansas’s population that will proactively be utilized to implement childhood obesity prevention programs.
The goal is to seek the origins of childhood obesity as part of the prevention strategy, in order to not only curb obesity but the side effects that it can have on children, including Type 2 diabetes and hypertension. The approach that they are taking is one of intervention before the problem actually begins for a child.
Within 10 years, researchers are seeking to have lowered numbers within the state of great significance, with its first benchmark at 3.8 percentage points, and to begin the process of renewing the grant in five years.
The Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock plans to have a network within the state as well that will focus on the topic of reducing the numbers for childhood obesity. The hospital has more than 4,000 employees and the facility’s size equates to 36 city blocks.
The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences will also have personnel involved in the initiative. The personnel, known currently as “junior researchers,” will be part of the application process for grant funding on specific aspects of the project as it develops.
Arkansas researchers hope that not only will their programs benefit the children within the state but that the effects of its studies will trickle to children around the nation.
The ACRI and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences has also received other grants, including $1.4 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for its “Arkansas Active Kids!” study. The study will survey 200 parents who have children that are seven to 10 years old. As parents are surveyed, kids will be tested for fitness and activity levels.
Previously ACRI and the Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center received a $1.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health in April for research on the topic of childhood obesity. The funds from this grant will be used to view how obesity may begin in infancy and study a child’s body fat distribution before the age of two years.
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