October 19, 2011

NICHQ to Participate in Obesity Prevention Campaigns in Two Massachusetts Communities

Massachusetts Department of Public Health to Lead Integrated Intervention in New Bedford and Fitchburg, Contracts with NICHQ for Training and Resources

The National Institute for Children’s Health Quality (NICHQ) will train healthcare professionals in the communities of Fitchburg and New Bedford, MA, as part of a state-run anti-obesity effort. Mass in Motion: Community-Clinical Partnerships to Reduce Childhood Obesity will focus primarily on underserved children ages 2-12.

Childhood obesity constitutes a grave threat to the health and well-being of our nation, as rates have risen dramatically over the past decades with strong impact on diverse and disadvantaged communities. The US now has the highest rate of obesity among all developed nations. NICHQ has developed numerous tools and resources to aid healthcare professionals in the fight against childhood obesity. Faculty and staff from NICHQ will offer trainings on how to access and utilize these resources.

“We are thrilled to train healthcare providers in obesity best practices and quality improvement,” said Dr. Shikha Anand, a physician champion from NICHQ who will help lead the project. “By giving providers in schools, healthcare, and childcare settings the tools for childhood obesity management, we are promoting a proven and sustainable model of care that will hopefully spread to more communities throughout Massachusetts and across the country.”

Mass in Motion: Community-Clinical Partnerships to Reduce Childhood Obesity will incorporate changes in primary care, child care, schools, and after-school programs. Work will also focus on creating policy change and building awareness through a community-wide social marketing campaign. The project will be administered in conjunction with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), the Department of Population Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and the Harvard School of Public Health.

“I’m delighted that our federal partners have recognized the groundbreaking work that’s been underway at the community level to fight childhood obesity in Massachusetts,” said Governor Deval Patrick in press release issued by the Massachusetts Department of Health. “This generous award will allow us to take these innovative partnerships to a whole new level to continue that fight.”

Upon completion, the grant will also fund a comprehensive evaluation component that will allow researchers to assess the impact of the overall project using a series of measures, including individual lifestyle behaviors, changes in Body Mass Index (BMI), satisfaction with health care services, and quality of life. Lessons learned from the pilot project will be used to inform best practices in childhood obesity prevention efforts in communities across Massachusetts.

“We know the serious lifelong health impacts that can result from childhood obesity,” said DPH Commissioner John Auerbach in a press release issued by the state. “This new funding is a valuable opportunity for us to partner with nationally-recognized academicians and researchers to develop new and effective methods to fight the problem.”