Location: Delta Obesity Prevention Research2010 Annual Report
1a. Objectives (from AD-416)
The mission of the Delta Obesity Prevention Research Unit is to conduct nutrition research to prevent obesity in at-risk, rural populations in the Lower Mississippi Delta of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is coordinating a major research endeavor that brings together the talents of ARS and other research cooperators in a tri-state region to accomplish the following: 1) Identify barriers and facilitators to adherence to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DG) and examine how differential profiles of adherence relate to obesity in children and adults of the Delta region (ARS HEALTH study); 2) extend the behavioral knowledge gained from ARS research studies and other food availability and food cost surveys in the Delta, to adapt existing DG eating patterns, such as the USDA Food Guide (MyPyramid) and the DASH Eating Plan, for the Lower Mississippi Delta population. Test the developed eating patterns for nutritional adequacy and feasibility of adoption by the Delta population. Concurrently, adapt DG physical activity recommendations for the Delta population and examine feasibility of adoption; 3) evaluate the effectiveness of the adapted DG eating patterns, with and without physical activity, in reducing weight gain and risk factors for obesity-related chronic disease in the Lower Mississippi Delta population through the use of interventional studies. Determine if diet-gene relationships underlie the effectiveness of the adapted eating patterns.
1b. Approach (from AD-416)
The Delta Obesity Prevention Research Unit, in partnership with other ARS laboratories and research cooperators, has developed a strategic plan to improve the health of at-risk, rural populations of the Lower Mississippi Delta through obesity prevention research. Utilizing multi-faceted research approaches, this endeavor will provide a greater understanding of this population’s adherence to national dietary guidance for prevention of obesity and reduced risk for obesity-related chronic disease through the use of dietary and physical activity interventions using established scientific study designs and methods meeting the requirements for evidence based reviews. This cooperative research seeks solutions to these complex challenges through multidisciplinary team research and through cooperation with the general public, local government, policy makers, other institutions and agencies. Research internships addressing the objectives above may be created for university students in the tri-state area.
3. Progress Report
In FY10, we established a name and "logo" for our project, "Delta Garden Study," to create a readily recognizable identity for the program. This "branding" assists in our school recruitment efforts, and in our media relations, potential fund sources, and our community collaborators. We also created a website (www.arteengarden.com), and a monthly e-newsletter to establish a recognizable identity and purpose both in and outside of the State. This has resulted in 6 local media events during FY10 featuring the Delta Garden Study and our efforts regarding the prevention of childhood obesity. Through our Planning Committee process we have recruited our two pilot study schools (and completed preliminary recruitment visits to 8 full-scale study schools); hosted a Ground Breaking event attended by the media as well as prominent state officials (e.g., Arkansas' First Lady and the Surgeon General) in addition to school teachers and administrators and over 100 middle school students; developed and pilot tested a new school bonding instrument in over 5,000 middle school students (manuscript pending); developed and pre-tested (pilot testing to commence fall 2010) new fruit/vegetable intake and physical activity questionnaires, and a nutrition, science, and gardening knowledge test; developed and written a garden-based science curriculum (with corresponding teacher's guide and student materials; 2/3 completed); and established the first school garden at the pilot intervention school. Since no curriculum existed for the integration of a science-based garden program at the middle school level, we designed an extensive, multi-step process to develop what will result in a 6-8th grade level science textbook, complete with corresponding teacher's guide, student classroom and homework materials, and visual aids. The UAMS Patents and Copyright Office is applying for copyright registration for the book and accompanying materials through the US Copyright Office on behalf of the Lead ACHRI Investigator. Other novel contributions include the proposed theory for the study, the Social Development Theory, for which ACHRI researchers have proposed a modified Social Development Model with school bonding as the mediating mechanism for students' involvement in the school garden to result in positive health and social outcomes. The science-based curriculum is the means to achieving the proposed improvements in academic achievement and is key to obtaining school administration "buy-in". An additional innovation is the rigorous quasi-experimental, nested, matched-pairs design, which is unique in the school garden literature. Ancillary funding from the Arkansas Community Foundation has been obtained to purchase cooking equipment for all 10 intervention schools so the students can prepare healthy recipes from the garden produce. The Delta Garden Study was chosen to receive a Clinton School of Public Service Practicum Team to collaborate with the program specifically on issues related to program sustainability. The ADODR monitors activities for the project by routine site visits, quarterly project review teleconferences, and annual research workshops.
1. Pilot testing of the school bonding survey. The two original school bonding survey instruments (WAY and Jenkins) chosen did not match up with the goals of the Delta Garden Study and therefore could not measure the expected outcomes of the research. An extensive literature search was used to pull questions from multiple validated surveys that appeared to have the highest relevance to the garden study and for inclusion in a newly designed school bonding survey. The new survey instrument includes questions from both the WAY and the Jenkins, and other high-performing surveys, plus new questions designed to capture school connectedness resulting from level of school involvement,like gardening. The new school bonding survey was pilot tested for reliability and validity in a sample of over 5,000 middle school students in the Little Rock School District, and subsequently used to collect data in the intervention and control schools in September 2010. A manuscript is in progress and a journal submission date is anticipated in October 2010.
2. Delta garden study website. Because of the distance from Little Rock to the Delta areas, it was necessary to find a means of quick communication among and with the schools to be studied. A Delta Garden Study Website was designed to create branding and awareness of our research program. The website has exceeded the original purpose of communication. It now facilitates school recruitment, public outreach, development of collaborator relationships, enrollment of student interns and volunteers, recognition of study sponsors, progress of study schools, news about the study and more!