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Wayne State to launch child-focused obesity center funded by $5.7 million NIH grant

October 21, 2009

DETROIT—While obesity is a growing problem with Americans, it is significantly higher among African Americans, particularly in children and adolescents. To date, there have been few studies of interventions designed to prevent or treat obesity among this target population, and those that have been constructed largely have failed.

A team of researchers at Wayne State University have set out to change this, with the support of a five-year, $5.7 million grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development, both of the National Institutes of Health. The project, “Interventionist Procedures for Adherence to Weight Loss Recommendations in Black Adolescents,” will bring together a multidisciplinary team of researchers in adolescent health behavior change, motivation and learning and provider-family interactions within urban populations.

The obesity center will be led by Sylvie Naar-King, Ph.D., associate professor of pediatrics in WSU’s School of Medicine and resident of Clawson, and K-L Catherine Jen, Ph.D., professor and chair of nutrition and food science in WSU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and resident of Bloomfield Hills. Collaborators from the Medical University of South Carolina, as well as nine departments and institutes at Wayne State University, will be involved in the project.

According to Naar-King, this intervention project has three components: strategies to increase extrinsic motivation; strategies to increase intrinsic motivation; and skills development. Primary skills of parental monitoring of the adolescent’s eating and exercise will be key, as will self-monitoring of eating and exercising, managing hunger and cravings, and portion control. “What we are doing is specifying what needs to happen to actually learn and use skills,” said Naar-King. “By increasing intrinsic and extrinsic motivation through various methods, participants will develop and practice skills in the context in which they occur. An example is having a community health worker present at meal times to help the family measure food portions.”

This multistage trial will guide adolescents and their families through various sets of treatment options. Through these phases, the participants will learn and practice skills that will help them adhere to weight loss strategies through healthier eating options and improved exercise programs.

“When it comes to obesity prevention and treatment, it is not one-size-fits-all,” said Jen. “Hence it is important to provide options to adolescents in order to identify the optimal strategy.”

Recruitment of family participants will begin in early 2010 and will involve 58 families. The second phase will include 200 families to be recruited in late 2010. Participants will be recruited from Children’s Hospital of Michigan (CHM) Adolescent Medicine Clinic and General Pediatrics Clinic, the new Health and Fitness Clinic at CHM Pediatrics, Endocrinology Clinic, school health clinics and various community centers and local health fairs.

Media contact: Julie O'Connor, ag2712@wayne.edu

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Wayne State University is one of the nation’s pre-eminent public research universities in an urban setting. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world. For more information about research at Wayne State University, visit www.research.wayne.edu.