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Leveraging Ongoing Home Visitation Programs to Address Obesity Disparities Among Underserved, Low-Income Mothers And Children

Sarah Salvy, PhD and Gareth Dutton, PhD

HABITS is a full research project funded by an OHDRC grant, led by Gareth Dutton, Ph.D., professor in the UAB Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine, and Sarah-Jeanne Salvy, Ph.D., professor of medicine at Cedars Sinai Medical Center. 

With the help of a community partner, Family Guidance Center of Alabama in Montgomery, the team has developed a program that equips federally funded home educators, who already deliver services to these households, to help families develop healthier habits around diet, exercise, and healthy weight management. 

“Home visiting has traditionally targeted a number of important social, familial, academic, and health indicators, such as school readiness, age-appropriate vaccinations, physical health, and mental health,” Dutton said. “But they didn’t fully cover topics related to a healthy lifestyle such as weight management and obesity prevention.”

Despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic, HABITS has been able to ramp up and recruit families. Currently, there are 125 families who have enrolled and completed baseline assessments, and 24 who have completed the study. 

“It’s been a great partnership that the HABITS study has built, filling that gap to help leverage the existing infrastructure and relationships that the home educators have,” Dutton said. “They are now able to cover these broader topics with families and give them some concrete strategies and materials to use related to healthy habits around diet and exercise and healthy weight management.”

This work is supported by a grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (U54MD000502).