Selected PRC-RH Other Research Projects
Muscatine and Fort Dodge Community School Districts - Childhood Obesity Project
PI: Linda Snetselaar
Carver Trust/Principal Foundation
Linda Snetselaar talks with school kids about healthy food choices. A third-grader takes advantage of the after-school free swimming program at the YMCA.
Dr. Linda Snetselaar has spent the last several years along with her Nutrition Center working closely with the school district and a community coalition they have formed in Muscatine and Fort Dodge to address the problem of childhood obesity. The project's goal is to create national models of evidence-based, sustainable programs that can be replicated in other communities. This project involves providing technical assistance and training to this coalition of schools and businesses. Dr. Snetselaar has advised the group on issues related to nutrition in children, while Dr. Faryle Nothwehr has provided training to group members on conducting discussion groups with parents and children. The Childhood Obesity Project - with funding from the Principal Financial Group Foundation, the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and other local organizations- began with three years of community assessment and pilot projects to determine what strategies might work through focus groups, regular meetings and strategic planning. The researchers offered examples of things other schools had done that were effective in changing behaviors, then let the school decide what they might modify to fit their own situation. The group also came up with several innovative ideas of their own. The next phase involved two years of intervention-putting the wellness initiatives into action in the Muscatine Community Schools. The projects included a nutrition unit added to the fifth-grade science curriculum, an after-school free swimming program offered in partnership with YMCA for third-graders, breakfast in a bag and a "foodography" project involving photographing school lunch entrees and posting the pictures in the schools in order to aid in making healthy food choices. This project also involves assisting with the evaluation of a school-based childhood wellness project in Fort Dodge, Iowa. The effort is being led by Trinity Regional medical Center and included interventions such as creating walking trails at elementary schools, after-school swimming lessons and holding "Monthly Lunchroom Challenges," which encourage students to eat the healthy food choice of the month. In May 2010, Dr. Snetselaar received the Faculty Award in Community Engagement for her work in Muscatine from the University of Iowa College of Public Health Board of Advisors.
Child Obesity Prevention: Improving the Nutritional Environment at School Sporting Events
PI: Helena Laroche
Wellmark Foundation of Iowa / UI PRC-RH Pilot Grant 2011-2012
These Muscatine Muskie football players were featured in an ad campaign at Muscatine High School promoting new healthy foods at the concession stand.
Dr. Helena Laroche, an investigator at the PRC-RH, is conducting a pilot testing of an intervention with the school sport concession stands in Muscatine, Iowa. These concession stands are managed by parent groups raising money for student activities. This intervention tested whether the stands are able to offer healthier food options while still maintaining their expected income using community-based participatory principals. In a collaborative effort with the Booster Club and school district officials, a subcommittee evaluated the nutritional content of current offerings, researched solutions to barriers identified, and initiated discussion with food distributors regarding available healthier food options. In addition, surveys were conducted with students and parents regarding food preferences, and a taste test was conducted with some of the healthier products available from vendors. The group advertised these new products, provided samples to students, and sent flyers home toting the nutritional benefits of eating well. In addition to offering new concession items such as soft pretzels, string cheese, apples, and grilled chicken sandwiches, existing items have gotten a makeover: popcorn is now made with canola oil instead of coconut oil. A new cheese used for nachos contains no trans fat and has a lower amount of saturated fat than the previous version.“Customers didn’t even notice the change in cheese and popcorn oil,” Laroche said. “These were the easiest changes and affect the most people.” Surveys showed increased satisfaction with the availability and variety of healthier options and that customers would buy them again. The project will resulted in a “how-to” guide for offering healthier concession choices, that is currently being tested as a PRC--RH Pilot Grant.
To read about the core research projects at the PRC-RH click here.
To read about the PRC-RH Pilot Grant Program at the PRC-RH click here.