Ms. Alycia Boutté, a second-year doctoral student in the Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior (HPEB) in the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health, has been awarded a Research Supplement to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The two-year grant builds on an existing South Carolina project, the NIH-funded R01 Health in Pregnancy and Postpartum (HIPP) Study, which is led by co-principal investigators Dr. Sara Wilcox (Exercise Science) and Dr. Jihong Liu (Epidemiology and Biostatistics) and co-investigator Dr. Brie Turner-McGrievy (HPEB)
The HIPP study is a large-scale randomized controlled trial that targets excessive gestational weight gain during pregnancy and weight loss during the postpartum period. Already a Graduate Trainee on the project, Ms. Boutté’s NIH supplement will allow her to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the HIPP study’s main outcomes by analyzing psychosocial (e.g., stress, depression) and geospatial (i.e., the built environment, such as access to healthy/affordable food) influences on diet quality using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) analysis.
“My current research focus combines psychosocial influences and the nutritional built environment’s impact on diet quality in pregnancy,” says Ms. Boutté. “I’m interested in investigating racial and ethnic disparities among these relationships, and I’m excited that receiving the supplement award will allow me to research this for my dissertation.”
“Alycia is working at the intersection of mental health and public health and addressing an important population that has been understudied,” adds Dr. Turner-McGrievy. “Finding ways to help women consume healthier diets during pregnancy not only benefits the woman, but can also have potentially long-lasting positive effects for her baby as well.”
Ms. Boutté’s present research perspective began with the New Orleans area native’s undergraduate program at Xavier University of Louisiana, where she received the Rousseve Scholarship and Dr. Dereck J. Rovaris, Sr. Award, was recognized by Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges, and graduated Summa Cum Laude. While studying psychology, she became fascinated with understanding factors that influence human behavior related to health and well-being.
Next, Ms. Boutté earned a Master of Public Health from the University of Texas Health Science Center, where she refined her interests through research projects such as a community-based childhood obesity project with Hispanic families. It was through this experience that Ms. Boutté observed additional factors (e.g., income, access to healthy/affordable foods) that influenced families’ success in becoming healthier.