UTHealth receives $3.7 million grant for child obesity prevention and research

Michael & Susan Dell Center for Health Living to expand child health research

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HOUSTON (Feb. 21, 2011) – 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 (UTHealth), has been awarded a four-year grant for $3.7 million grant from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. 

“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 Deanna Hoelscher, Ph.D., 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, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation expands its commitment to building the science base and community capacity for effective prevention programs in order to achieve a vision of ‘healthy children in a healthy world’.”

With the new funding, the Center plans to expand its child health research. This grant provides funding for the Center to establish new initiatives such as a communications core, a community advisory board and a core for data analysis.

The communications core will increase the Center’s communication of health information to the public through social media, outreach events and special events. The Center will also be able to expand its Community Advisory Board, which will help connect with valuable community organizations and receive community input for research to create a synergistic effort for improving child health in Central Texas.

“We are proud of the tremendous strides that the Center has made through on-the-ground intervention and evaluation, efforts to galvanize and empower communities, and its commitment to the timely generation and sharing of research critical to improving childhood health,” said Aliya Hussaini, Ph.D., grant officer at the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. “The Center has proven to be an asset not only to Central Texas, but also to the broader public health community.”

According to Steven Kelder, Ph.D., co-director of the Center, grant funds will also go toward using data from research projects from across the country in hopes of developing and influencing policy and public health practice in Texas. This will also provide training opportunities for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows at the School of Public Health. “The increased communications efforts, input from the community advisory board and ability to influence policy and public health practice in Texas will help the Center to have a dramatic impact on child health and obesity in Texas and across the country,” said Kelder.

The Center will continue its core activities which include the Michael & Susan Dell Lectureship in Child Health and Texas Obesity Awareness Week activities. The funding will also help the Center support and continue work related to its core research program, Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH), a school-based childhood obesity prevention program. To date, CATCH has been adopted by more than 7,000 schools in the United States including over 1,600 elementary schools in Texas. CATCH has been successful in reducing overall childhood obesity rates in El Paso and Austin, including the disproportionately-affected economically-disadvantaged populations in these cities.

The Center 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.

Jade Waddy
Media Hotline: 713-500-3030