Cheryl Grills, professor and chair of Loyola Marymount University’s Department of Psychology, today announced the launch of a center for applied research that has received an $895,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The new Psychology Applied Research Center (LMU-PARC) will focus on issues surrounding social change including education, housing, land use and healthcare reform. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant will fund a five-year evaluation of policy changes in 20 states designed to reduce childhood obesity in Latino, African American and Native American communities. The study will attempt to determine whether the new policies affect the eating habits of children in the targeted communities.
Responding to sharp rises in obesity among children in low income and ethnic neighborhoods, many governments and community agencies are developing policies designed to reduce environmental factors that contribute to excessive weight gain.
Experts point to few health-conscious supermarkets in poor neighborhoods, the concentration of fast-food restaurants and the lack of access to fitness centers and recreation space as contributing to the problem.
“Even schools that provide meals to our children are contributing to obesity problems,” said Grills. “We will be evaluating how the communities in 20 states implement policy changes designed to reverse this trend. We will be assessing whether the policies are successful and what benchmarks can be seen over time in the health statistics of children of color.”
In addition to program evaluation, LMU-PARC will also provide technical assistance and strategic planning for the foundation and to communities that are attempting to create healthier environments.