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ACHRI Launches Childhood Obesity Prevention Research Program

Research Strategies to Reverse Current Trends Focus of New Projects

LITTLE ROCK, AR. (April 11, 2012) - The Arkansas Children's Hospital Research Institute launched a new program today that will focus on reducing the number of obese children in the state. The ACHRI Childhood Obesity Prevention Research Program (COPRP) brings together several grant-funded investigations into childhood obesity to help scientists develop strategies to reverse the epidemic. At the program's core will be translational research into the causes of obesity, as well as education and advocacy for community-based prevention strategies.

The ACHRI Childhood Obesity Prevention Research Program will bridge the gap between new projects and ongoing research, including the USDA-funded Delta Garden Study, which seeks to prevent childhood obesity through a science-based garden program in Arkansas middle schools, and the GLOWING Study at the Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center, a project that examines how a mom's diet and health influence her child's growth and development.

The Childhood Obesity Prevention Research Program will allow scientists to build on the foundation of their current research grants by recruiting experts in areas needed to address the causes of childhood obesity and to develop preventive strategies. Experts in physical activity and energy expenditure will be among the first to be recruited to the COPRP.  The program will also provide leadership and coordination for institutional and community-based partnerships statewide.

"We are excited that we will be able to do more than ever before to change the lives of Arkansas kids, to protect them from the health risks associated with obesity," said Judith Weber, PhD, co-director of the ACHRI Childhood Obesity Prevention Research Program and principal investigator of the Delta Garden Study. She is also an associate professor of Pediatrics in the UAMS College of Medicine and Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health. "Families right here in Arkansas are already benefitting from the initiatives that are a part of this program."

Other projects are working to increase school systems' capacity for serving fresh fruits and vegetables from local sources and examining how children's metabolisms are programmed early in life.

Dr. Weber's research will focus on the following components:

  • Building community partnerships that can strengthen strategies for reducing current trends;
  • Championing changes in school systems and communities that will promote healthy behaviors;
  • Serving as an educational resource center and authority on preventing childhood obesity; and
  • Advocating for policy changes that will help reduce behaviors and environments that lead to childhood obesity.

"This new prevention program will provide the opportunity to translate results from our clinical and basic research to Arkansas communities," said Thomas Badger, PhD, co-director of the ACHRI Childhood Obesity Prevention Research Program and director of the Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center. He is also a professor of Pediatrics and Physiology and Biophysics in the UAMS College of Medicine. "For example, Arkansas has a substantial number of very obese children, and we are developing the data to help define where in the developmental process the obesity cycle begins and what triggers it. This information will be used to develop effective prevention strategies."

Scientists expect this work will advance overall public health by preventing diseases associated with obesity, including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The program will tie together the work performed by several Arkansas institutions and agencies, including the Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center, ACHRI, the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, the UAMS College of Medicine's Department of Pediatrics, government affiliations ranging from the state to city level, and the USDA's Delta Obesity Prevention Research Unit.

Arkansas Children's Hospital is the only pediatric medical center in Arkansas and one of the largest in the United States serving children. The campus is celebrating 100 years of providing Care, Love and Hope in 2012. Over the past century, ACH has grown to span 29 city blocks and house 316 beds, a staff of approximately 500 physicians, 80 residents in pediatrics and pediatric specialties and more than 4,000 employees. The private, nonprofit healthcare facility boasts an internationally renowned reputation for medical breakthroughs and intensive treatments, unique surgical procedures and forward-thinking medical research - all dedicated to fulfilling our mission of enhancing, sustaining and restoring children's health and development. For more information, visit

ACHRI provides a research environment on the ACH campus to meet the needs of the UAMS faculty.  Research scientists at ACHRI conduct clinical, basic science, and health services research for the purpose of treating illnesses, preventing disease and improving the health of children everywhere. 

UAMS is the state's only comprehensive academic health center, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Related Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a statewide network of regional centers; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute, the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and the Translational Research Institute. Named best Little Rock metropolitan area hospital by U.S. News & World Report, it is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has more than 2,800 students and 775 medical residents. It is the state's largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including nearly 1,150 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children's Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS' Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. Visit or

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