Dr. Alhassan's primary research interest is in the effects of physical activity on obesity and related co- morbidities in ethnic minority children and adolescents. Goals for this Mentored Research Scientist Development Award (K01) are to learn the skills necessary for assessing physical activity and insulin action, and to learn theory and methodology for community family-based interventions and public health. Like African-American women, African-American girls suffer disproportionately from obesity. The increased prevalence of obesity has been associated with an increased incidence of pediatric Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). A factor associated with the increased prevalence of obesity and T2DM in children is a decrease in their physical activity levels. Reductions in physical activity are more prevalent in African-American girls and women;therefore effective physical activity interventions are needed. For a physical activity intervention to be effective among African-American girls the program must resonate with them and they must enjoy participating in it. One possible example of an enjoyable, culturally-appropriate intervention is Afro-centric dance. In addition, it has been speculated that a way to increase children's physical activity level is to increase parental physical activity level. Studies have shown that parental (maternal) health behaviors can influence children's health behaviors. Family remains a valued facet of the African-American culture, and therefore an important behavioral context for interventions to improve physical activity and other health outcomes. Currently, there are no studies examining the effects of a daughter-mother physical activity program on the activity levels of African-American girls. We propose to examine the feasibility and efficacy of a 12-week randomized control intervention that engages African-American daughters and mothers in Afro-centric dance. The primary outcome variable is total daily physical activity (accelerometer counts/minute) and the amount of time spent in moderate to vigorous physical activity. The secondary outcome variables include body mass index, fasting insulin levels, and psychosocial factors. We hypothesize that by choosing a culturally-appropriate and fun form of physical activity, and by engaging mothers, we will see higher levels of sustained physical activity. As a result, we should see improvements in related biomarkers. IMPACT: If this intervention presents a viable option for increasing physical activity for African-American girls and their mothers, we will have identified a route for reducing obesity and T2DM in these groups.

Public Health Relevance

African-American girls suffer disproportionately from obesity and related health problems such as diabetes, in part from low levels of physical activity. We will study the effectiveness of a culturally-appropriate dance intervention that engages the mother, who is the key behavioral role model for African-American girls. We hope this approach presents a viable route to sustained physical activity for both mothers and daughters, thereby reducing obesity and diabetes.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
Research Scientist Development Award - Research & Training (K01)
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Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolic Diseases B Subcommittee (DDK)
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Podskalny, Judith M,
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University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Schools of Public Health
United States
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