News Release

Jul 2011

CFRC Researcher Jesse Helton Receives Grant from Food and Family Program

The CFRC's Jesse Helton recently received funding for his Fostering Health and Nutrition program. The proposal was accepted by the University of Illinois Family Resiliency Center's Food and Family Program (supported by the Christopher Family Foundation). The genesis of this grant was from caregiver reported estimates of child weight and height from the Illinois Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (ISCAW) that indicates children in Illinois foster are at an increased risk for childhood obesity. The abstract for the study follows.

Childhood obesity has now been established as a major public health concern. There are currently many efforts underway to prevent obesity and promote healthy eating and exercise for most of the U.S. child population. However, children in foster care are overlooked in epidemiological studies and evidence-based intervention strategies. This omission is curious considering the evidence that children who have a history of sexual abuse, physical neglect, and childhood trauma are at risk for obesity. These abused and traumatized children, once placed in foster care, may be vulnerable to many of the environmental and familial risk factors for obesity that families living in poverty endure. Moreover, foster families may be at an even higher risk for sustaining child obesity rates due to additional challenges not faced in the general public: caring for traumatized children with emotional and behavioral problems, caring for a greater number of children than the average family, and child feelings of isolation that comes with integrating into a new home away from birth parents. No intervention to date has attempted to respond to these unique needs.

Therefore, the overall aim of Fostering Health and Nutrition will be to develop and pilot a culturally sensitive health and nutritional program for foster parents and preschool aged children in the state of Illinois. Preschool aged children and their foster families are targeted to intervene during a period of child development when eating habits and activity choices are being established. The study approach will be to target family-level factors affecting poor nutrition and exercise and develop new programs to increase family consumption of fruits and vegetables, decrease the consumption of energy dense foods, improve nutritional education, improve family cohesion and foster youth integration into family, and decrease youth emotional and behavioral problems.

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