One-third of children in Alaska are overweight or obese, and rates may be even higher in southwestern Alaska. So a team led by a University of Alaska Fairbanks researcher will work with community members to test ways to promote healthy eating and active play, focusing on 3– to 5-year-old Alaska Native children. Andrea Bersamin, associate professor of nutrition at UAF, and her team have received $1.8 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the work.
Bersamin is a faculty member at the Center for Alaska Native Health Research, part of UAF’s Institute of Arctic Biology. Project co-directors are Diane King, who directs the Center for Behavioral Health Research and Services at UA Anchorage’s Institute of Social Economic Research, and Mallie Paschall, senior scientist at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Berkeley, California. The team first will explore community perceptions of what makes it easy or hard for young children to eat a healthy diet and be active. Then, working with a community advisory board, the team will develop a home-based program that helps parents prepare and offer healthy food and be role models for their young children.