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We foster collaborative and multidisciplinary research

The Obesity Health Disparities Research Center was established in 2017 as one of the NIMHD's Centers of Excellence. UAB is one of 12 academic institutions in the U.S. to receive funding for research in minority health and health disparities. In 2019, the center expanded its focus to the southeast and partnered with academic institutions Louisiana State University (LSU), The University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC), and Jackson State University (JSU). Center investigators study the complex contributors and interactions among biological, behavioral, and social factors related to obesity; how they vary at critical periods during life; and develop interventions to address these contributors.

Full research projects

The OHDRC is conducting two full research projects. One, under the leadership of Sarah Salvy, PhD and Gareth Dutton, PhD, Associate Professors in UAB Division of Preventive Medicine, will test the effectiveness of deliverying obesity prevention as part of a federally funded home visitation program for low income mothers and young children. The study will examine whether a simple targeted in-home intervention, focused on developing good habits, can improve weight outcomes and obesity risk among mothers and children.

The second project is led by Sylvie Mrug, PhD, Professor and Interim Chair of the UAB Department of Psychology. Dr. Mrug will study whether early life stress can change DNA in a way that contributes to obesity and if this changed DNA can be inherited by future generations. She will also investigate whether there are protective factors that can prevent the biologically-imbedded DNA changes from being transmitted to children.

Pilot projects

The OHDRC Pilot Program supports early stage investigators interested in obesity health disparities research by providing mentoring and funding innovative one-year proposals for pilot research. This program elevates the quality of pilot research by sponsoring a competition for funds that is peer-reviewed and mirrors those conducted by the NIH. Up to three (3) pilot projects will be funded each year and up to $50,000 will be awarded per project. NIH-defined New and Early Stage Investigators at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who have promising concepts for obesity health disparties research are eligible to apply.