Wednesday, August 19, 2009

NHLBI Awards Recovery Act Funds to Support Study of Parents' Role in Adolescent Eating and Activity Behaviors

The study, Project F-EAT (Families and Eating and Activity in Teens), is led by Dianne R. Neumark-Sztainer, Ph.D., of the University of Minnesota. The work will complement existing NHLBI-funded research by Dr. Neumark-Sztainer, whose research team is currently examining the role of peer, school and neighborhood characteristics on adolescent behaviors. The new two-year component will focus on the role of the family and home environment, and is made possible by the expansion of funding provided by the Recovery Act. The $737,481 award will enable the retention of funding for a total of 11 individuals (including researchers, post doctoral associates/graduate students, and two project assistants). The grant will also create two new research positions.

"Without support of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, we would not have been able to expand on this worthy research," said NHLBI Director Elizabeth G. Nabel, M.D. "Through this work, we will be better able to develop interventions and public health programs that promote the weight-related health of young people."

The rate of obesity among adolescents aged 12 to 19 years has more than tripled over the past three decades, and the rate among children ages 6 to 11 years has more than doubled. Parents play a key role in creating a home environment that fosters healthful eating and physical activity, according to Nabel.

Adolescents consume about two-thirds of their total calories within the home. The project will examine how the family and home environment are related to a teen's weight, body image, weight control practices, dietary intake and physical activity. Parents or other caregivers of 2,400 ethnically and socio-economically diverse adolescents from the Minneapolis/St. Paul area will be mailed a questionnaire in English, Spanish and other languages or dialects. In order to include individuals who do not read, as well as to engage both mothers and fathers, the investigators will follow-up by telephone. The area school district is 33 percent African-American, 29 percent white, 23 percent Asian or Pacific Islander, 12 percent Hispanic and 3 percent American Indian.

The study will collect information from parents and caregivers on such variables as the frequency and structure of family meals, the types of food served, the location of meals, portion size, rules about eating, and the visibility of foods at home. In addition, information regarding the practice and support of physical activity, available physical activity resources, and the availability of media such as televisions and computers within the home, will be surveyed.

Funding of Project F-EAT will build upon the NHLBI's commitment to help prevent childhood obesity. As part of this commitment, the NHLBI, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the National Cancer Institute, established We Can! (Ways to Enhance Children's Activity & Nutrition) in June 2005. The science-based national education program brings families and communities together to promote healthy weight in children ages 8 through 13 through improved food choices, increased physical activity, and reduced screen time.

More information about NIH's Recovery Act grant funding opportunities can be found at To track the progress of HHS activities funded through the Recovery Act, visit To track all federal funds provided through the Recovery Act, For more information about We Can!, visit or call toll-free at call toll-free 866-35-WE CAN.

To speak with an NIH spokesperson, please contact the NHLBI Communications Office at (301) 496-4236 or at To interview Dr. Neumark-Sztainer, contact Laura Stroup from the Academic Health Centers Communications Office at the University of Minnesota at (612) 624-5680 or

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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The activities described in this release are being funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). More information about NIH’s ARRA grant funding opportunities can be found at To track the progress of HHS activities funded through the ARRA, visit To track all federal funds provided through the ARRA, visit