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A Healthy Change for the Delta

By Jill Lee
January 29, 1999

Many want Delta's low-income families to get better food and lead healthier lives. But good intentions are not enough. That's why the Delta Nutrition Research Initiative involves poor Delta communities in deciding what their key nutrition problems are, and empowers them to find solutions with help from nutrition scientists.

Delta NIRI serves 36 counties or parishes in Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas. It's members include seven nutritional research centers, including Alcorn State University, Lorman, Miss.; Southern University and A&M College, Baton Rouge, La.; University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff; Arkansas Children's Hospital Research Institute; University of Southern Mississippi at Hattiesburg and Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge. Delta NIRI, which began in 1995, has an operating budge of $3.1 million for 1999.

So how does this Consortium work? Delta NIRI hires and trains Delta residents to survey area counties about health and nutrition problems. Then scientists in the Delta NIRI program design and test nutrition interventions based on these concerns. Ultimately, the community decides if the programs are worthwhile and should continue.

The communities benefit because top-level nutritional researchers are working to improve the health of residents. The scientists benefit because their research projects are based on real-life problem solving.

Why this special initiative for the Delta? Compared to national statistics, Delta families are more likely to lack pre-natal care, have low-birth weight deliveries and high infant mortality. Nutrition related chronic diseases such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes are also above national average.

You can read more about Delta NIRI in this month's "Agricultural Research" magazine.

It also features more information about the Delta communities who will be partners in this project. The article is also available on the World Wide Web at: