Penn State to Focus on Obesity Prevention Training

Sustainable, comprehensive and problem-based training to prevent child obesity will now be possible thanks to a $4.5 million, five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Childhood obesity rates have more than tripled in the last 30 years. Obesity now affects nearly one in five children.

The grant will allow formation of Penn State's Childhood Obesity Prevention Graduate Training Program, a joint effort of the Departments of Nutritional Sciences and Human Development and Family Studies. Penn State's project is headed by Leann Birch, Distinguished Professor of human development and director, Center for Childhood Obesity Research, Gordon Jensen, professor and head of the Department of Nutritional Sciences, and Steven Zarit, professor and head of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies. The grant will provide support for nine graduate students, matched by two graduate fellowships from the University and will have on average 11 students each year split between nutritional sciences and human development and family studies.

Penn State's grant is one of only two major training grants awarded this year from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which was established under the 2008 Farm Bill. The long-term goal of these grants is to reduce the prevalence of overweight and obesity among children and adolescents.

The training program will cross-train students in ingestive behavior, nutrition education, epidemiology, child development, family development, intervention and prevention, and research methods. The program will also include an applied internship in one of four career areas: commerce and industry, education and outreach, medicine or public policy. The first class of trainees will begin fall semester 2011.

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Editors: For additional information, please contact the College of Health and Human Development Office of College Relations at 814-865-3831 or healthhd@psu.edu.