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WashU’s Brown School Receives NIH Grant to Study Obesity in Young Mothers

Researchers at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis will use a $3.3 million grant to test alternatives for prevention and interventions for young mothers who are facing obesity and chronic disease.

Dr. Rachel Tabak, research associate professor at the Brown School, received the five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to study ways to prevent weight gain and chronic disease among mothers age 18-35.

“Excessive weight gain among young adult women age 18-35 years is an alarming and overlooked trend that must be addressed to reverse the epidemics of obesity and chronic disease,” Dr. Tabak said. “During this vulnerable period, women tend to gain disproportionally large amounts of weight compared to men and other life periods.

The research team developed a lifestyle modification intervention, Healthy Eating and Active Living Taught at Home (HEALTH) that prevented weight gain, promoted sustained weight loss and reduced waist circumference in partnership with Parents as Teachers (PAT), a national home-visiting, community-based organization with significant reach in this population.

The new grant, “Disseminating & Implementing a Lifestyle Based Healthy Weight Program in a National Organization,” will extend those findings with a controlled trial to evaluate the dissemination and implementation of HEALTH across three levels — to a mother directly; through a parent educator who comes into the home; and through the Parents as Teachers website.

This study builds on a longstanding partnership between Dr. Debra Haire-Joshu, the Joyce Wood Professor at the Brown School and co-investigator of the new study, and PAT National Center, which provides a natural system for moving research into practice.

Dr. Tabak is a part of the Prevention Research Center, the Center for Diabetes Translation Research and the Envolve Center for Health Behavior Change. She works in obesity prevention and community-based physical activity and nutrition strategies.

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Photo: Dr. Rachel Tabak