Sparrow/MSU research examines obesity in Head Start children

Published: March 29, 2017

LANSING, MI – A new research project funded by the Sparrow/MSU Center for Innovation and Research seeks to help stem obesity in Head Start children by helping them to establish healthy lifestyles when they are still in preschool.

The innovative FirstStep2Health program, now being piloted in a handful of urban Head Start programs, involves an “Eat & Walk My ABC’s” curriculum that features nutritional education, food-tasting activities and games. Parents are connected through a private Facebook group that shares healthy cooking and regular physical activity tips and strategies to promote healthy lifestyles.

“This innovative program captures not only the influence of parents on children, but also the influence of children on their parents,” said Principal Investigator Jiying Ling, MS, Ph.D., RN, an assistant professor in the Michigan State University College of Nursing.

About 35 percent of Head Start children are overweight or obese, 1.5 times the overall rate for U.S. children aged 2-5 years. Ling says trying to educate preschoolers on nutrition and physical activity results in better short- and long-term outcomes than waiting until they are elementary age or older.

But few programs have targeted preschoolers from low socioeconomic backgrounds, resulting in persistent disparities.

The research team also includes Nicole Wieber, MSN, CPNP, of the Sparrow Hospital Gastroenterology Clinic; Mildred Horodynski, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, of the MSU College of Nursing; Lorraine B. Robbins, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, of the MSU College of Nursing; and Mi Zhang, Ph.D., of the MSU College of Engineering.

The Center for Innovation and Research is a formal partnership between Sparrow and MSU, bringing together innovators and supporting partnerships between the systems to identify problems, design new approaches, strategies, processes and technologies that address care problems and challenges. An important key to helping Sparrow fulfill its mission and vision is through medical research.

Choose Wisely. Choose Sparrow.