Obesity has been recognized as an epidemic, placing a huge burden on the health of the public and the national economy. National data suggest that the trend continues, despite broad-based public health messages to reduce obesity, and populations of color are particularly vulnerable. Although most cases of obesity are attributed to lifestyle habits, traditional behavior change programs have had little sustainability, in part attributable to ecologic factors external to the individual, grounded in environment, policy, cultural or social origins. Obesity occurs as part of a complex system representing failures at multiple levels of the ecologic milieu;thus, simply enrolling the obese in weight loss programs is insufficient for sustainable weight loss. Partnerships between scientists and communities to accommodate and include community ecologic factors may offer greater success and sustainability compared to traditional, individually-focused programs. This project 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 with the final goal of developing a proposal for submission for NIH funding. Houston is an incredibly diverse, large population center with the uncomfortable distinction of being listed as one of America's Top 10 Fattest Cities for the last five years.
Aims will be completed via 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 will use 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. It is expected that this project will provide a forum for the development of a community partnership structure that will support an eventual community based participatory research (CBPR) project and will facilitate culturally centered community partnership with a focus on addressing and eliminating health disparities.

Public Health Relevance

Approximately 280,000 deaths and $117 billion in medical expenses are attributed to obesity and obesity-related conditions each year and there is no known sustainable solution. Engaging community members, employing local knowledge, and investing community members from the most vulnerable communities, in the process of research to tackle this health problem through CBPR is highly significant to public health.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Conference--Cooperative Agreements (U13)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZHD1-DSR-M (92))
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White, Della
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University of Houston
Public Health & Prev Medicine
Schools of Education
United States
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Mama, Scherezade K; Soltero, Erica G; Ledoux, Tracey A et al. (2014) Solving the obesity epidemic: voices from the community. Nurs Inq 21:192-201