In addition to actively exploring innovative directions and opportunities in obesity research, the team is currently engaged in six grant-funded projects, which are summarized below. Prior projects include: Striding Together Achieving Results (STAR) and Mechanisms Of Physical Activity Behavior Change.
Health Is Power (HIP) is a community based health intervention designed to increase physical activity among women of color. It is funded by a grant from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health. The purposes of the study are (1) to determine whether African American women are willing to participate in a 6 month, social cohesion intervention, (2) to determine whether a 6 month, social cohesion intervention is more effective for increasing physical activity and improving dietary habits in comparison to an educational intervention, (3) to determine whether residence in a neighborhood supportive for physical activity helps women maintain their physical activity, and (4) to determine whether this effect is transculturally replicable. Findings suggest participants were enthusiastic about this approach and increased their physical activity, fruit and vegetable consumption as well as social cohesion.
Healthful Options Using Streets and Transportation in Our Neighborhoods (HOUSTON) is a multi-year study initiated to identify and assess relationships between environmental factors and physical activity, dietare habits, and obesity in African Americans residing in public housing. It is funded in part by the Active Living Research initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The purposes of the study are to (1) define environmental correlates of physical activity, dietary habits, and obesity, (2) assess physical activity resources, food sources, and pedestrian utilities in Houston neighborhoods surrounding 14 public housing developments, (3) assess the physical activity, dietary habits, and obesity of residents, and (4) correlate environmental factors with individual behavior. Findings suggest that many housing development residents are disconnected with health recommendations and opportunities. Neighborhood characteristics like physical activity resources and sidewalk connectivity are associated with physical activity, dietary habits and body mass index (BMI) and fat percentage.
SAving Lives Staying Active (SALSA) is an award winning, community based study designed to test an innovative health intervention using web resources and salsa dancing to promote physical activity and improve dietary habits in women of color. The SALSA study received the award for Outstanding Achievement for a Community Program from the Texas Council for Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke in 2009. The purposes of the study are to determine (1) the feasibility of an internet-based intervention and (2) whether a salsa dance intervention is effective for promoting physical activity sufficient to meet recommendations, and (3) whether an internet intervention to promote fruit and vegetable consumption increases fruit and vegetable consumption. Participants acheived sufficient intensity physical activity during salsa dancing to meet moderate to vigorous physical activity recommended levels. Findings also indicate participants increased their weekly leisure-time physical activity, improved their body satisfaction, and social support while reducing blood pressure. Participants enjoyed both salsa dancing and visiting the website.
The International Health Challenge (IHC) is a multinational study that explores the utility of virtual worlds in innovative health interventions. It is funded in part by a grant from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California. The purposes of the study are to determine (1) the feasibility of health interventions in the online Multi-User Virtual Environment of Second Life and (2) the role of social cohesion on virtual participation. Findings indicate participation is positively correlated with an increase in knowledge of physical activity and dietary habits and a reduction in consumption of calories from fat. Furthermore, demographics data show that Second Life was effective medium for reaching an audience at risk for obesity.
This study aims to capitalize on the unique opportunities presented in communities in the City of Houston to develop a partnership to promote sustainable obesity reduction via shared vision, community outreach and education. It consists of numerous interactive meetings, workshops, symposia and conferences to establish an academic-community partnership, identify community-research priorities, and develop a long-term collaborative agenda, focusing on the problem of obesity across the lifespan with particular attention to children and women. The partnership uses the Texas Obesity Research Center (TORC) in the Department of Health and Human Performance at the University of Houston (UH) as a framework organization to support the partnership and agenda, and rely on longstanding community ties of community members to the TORC and the UH.