In a continued effort to fight childhood obesity, the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living, part of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, and the USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine, have been awarded a $6.28 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Childhood obesity is one of the most challenging public health issues facing the nation and rates of child obesity are especially high in Texas," said Dr. Deanna Hoelscher, principal investigator of the grant and director of the Center, which is located at The University of Texas School of Public Health Austin Regional Campus, part of UTHealth. "With this funding, we intend to connect the dots between families, pediatricians, schools and local youth organizations to develop community capacity for early detection and effective management of obesity using evidence-based programs such as Mind Exercise Nutrition Do It! (MEND) and the Coordinated Approach To Child Health (CATCH). Child obesity is a problem bigger than any of us can tackle by ourselves. We need to work together."

Obesity prevention, control

The goal of the demonstration project is to develop, implement and evaluate an integrated, systems-oriented obesity prevention and control program for underserved, ethnically diverse children age 2 to 12. The project will take place in Austin and Houston with collaborators from MEND Central, Texas Children's Hospital, the Texas Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Childhood Obesity at Dell Children's Medical Center, Texas Department of State Health Services, Duke University, University of Nebraska Medical Center, the YMCA, the Sustainable Foods Center and CATCH.

Two communities in Houston and Austin will receive the CATCH diet, physical activity and obesity prevention programs for preschool, elementary and middle school. Within those communities, at-risk children and their families, screened and supervised by a pediatrician, will receive the MEND weight management program delivered at their local YMCA. Community health workers trained by the Texas Department of State Health Services will link physician offices and MEND program managers. Families will also participate in other community-level programs that support healthy eating and activity.

Grant first of its kind

Dr. Nancy Butte, principal investigator of the Houston project site and professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, said, "This demonstration grant is the first of its kind, and if successful, this Pediatric Obesity Care Model could become a new component of integrated medicine and community health practice."

The grant application was supported by contributions from BG Americas & Global LNG, St. David's Foundation, the MEND Foundation and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation for pilot studies conducted in Austin and Houston.

The Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living was founded in 2006 with a $2 million grant from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation in an effort to serve as the state, national and international leader in the promotion of healthy living for children and their families. The University of Texas School of Public Health includes a main campus in Houston and five regional campuses in Austin, El Paso, Dallas, Brownsville and San Antonio.

The CNRC is a unique cooperative venture between Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children's and the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Service. As one of six USDA/ARS human nutrition research centers in the country, the CNRC conducts scientific investigations into the role of maternal, infant and child nutrition in optimal health, development, and growth.