Grant to fund study of obesity in children and adolescents

Emory's Nutrition and Health Sciences Center, directed by professor of biochemistry Alfred H. Merrill Jr., is one of three partners in "The Atlanta Initiative," recently awarded a $2 million grant by the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation Inc. The Atlanta Initiative is the first phase of the national program "Improving Child and Adolescent Health Through Physical Activity and Nutrition," known as the PAN program. Ken Resnicow, associate professor of behavioral sciences and health education at the School of Public Health, will oversee the initiative's community-based interventions.

The Nutrition and Health Sciences Center, a unique combination of researchers from the medical school, the School of Public Health and the College, will work along with the National Foundation for the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC) and the International Life Sciences (ILSI) of Washington, D.C., in the PAN program, the first large-scale effort to address child and adolescent obesity in the United States.

CDC reports that 22 percent of girls and 20 percent of boys ages 6 to 17 are obese, up from 15 percent of both sexes in the 1970s. Unless the problem is addressed quickly, increasing numbers of children will be at risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and other serious health conditions as adults. The PAN program is designed to improve understanding of the important roles physical activity and nutrition play in the health and well-being of children and it will test new approaches to encouraging young people to develop healthier lifestyles.

Merrill will head the PAN Program's first Center of Excellence at Emory, which will promote interdisciplinary reserach, prepare and disseminate information and sponsor community-based interventions in Atlanta for inner-city children.

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