The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently named the University of Kentucky School of Human Environmental Sciences a national coordinating center for excellence in nutrition education and obesity prevention research.
“We are pleased to be named the National Coordinating Center for the Regional Nutrition Education Centers of Excellence,” said Ann Vail, director of the UK School of Human Environmental Sciences and national center lead. “Congress has recognized that knowing about nutrition is not enough to change the health status of our citizens. We need to know more about how people learn about and apply nutrition information that results in improving their health and well-being. These centers will focus on this important educational process.”
As a national coordinating center, researchers at the school, part of the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, will coordinate communications between regional centers located at the University of North Carolina and Cornell, Purdue and Colorado State universities. The regional centers will develop and test innovative nutrition education and obesity prevention interventions for underserved, low-income families through SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education, and EFNEP, the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program. The regional centers will administer at least one research project tailored to the specific needs of their region and award competitive grants and sub-grants to researchers. UK is in charge of collecting and disseminating the research results from these four regional centers. These centers were established through the new Farm Bill.
Other members of the UK group include nutrition education specialists and researchers Janet Mullins, Dawn Brewer and Janet Kurzynske. All three are in the Department of Dietetics and Human Nutrition.
“The naming of a USDA national coordinating center for obesity and nutrition education research at UK aligns with our emphasis to perform research that improves the lives of those in the commonwealth,” said Lisa Cassis, UK interim vice president for research. “We look forward to the impact of this important center as a means to develop solutions for these complex problems. We congratulate Dr. Vail and her team and will facilitate their efforts in the community to improve nutrition education and combat obesity.”
The UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science will also play an integral part in the coordinating center, as it will provide leadership for development and implementation of research data management.
“We are pleased that UK was selected to serve as a national coordinating center,” said Jeff Talbert, director of the Center for Clinical and Translational Science, Biomedical Informatics Data Warehousing Core. “The mission of this program to strengthen the evidence base on effective nutrition education and obesity prevention programs fits well with the needs of Kentucky and supports the engagement mission of the university.”
UK project members are also in charge of data evaluation and compilation for policymakers and shareholders. The group will work with the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to organize national meetings for the centers.
While the research is focused on underserved, low-income families, the successful interventions will benefit individuals beyond those who participate in the SNAP and EFNEP programs.
Ann Vail, 859-257-3887