Archana J. McEligot, associate professor of health science at CSUF, is the director of two of the new programs. The first project, Nutrition for a Changing World (NCW), is a joint collaboration with University of California, Davis, a premier nutrition institution.
The project will train 80 diverse students in nutrition and childhood obesity.
“The nice thing about it is the students will get exposure to leading scientists in the field and by our collaboration with UC Davis,” said McEligot.
The program will try to tackle the problem of obesity, especially in minority communities.
“Our population is changing,” McEligot said. “We have different cultures; we have different perspectives. So unless we understand those cultures–the social, the economic (aspects) … that really is the only way we can really tackle childhood obesity.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the last 30 years.
McEligot is also the director of a second project funded by the USDA, Nutrition, Obesity, & Policy in Hispanic Communities (NOPHC), which steps away from the individual factors that contribute to health problems and addresses the issues at the policy level. The project will work with 40 Latino students over the next two years on how to deal with the health problems in Latino communities.
Erualdo R. Gonzalez, assistant professor of Chicana and Chicano studies, is partnering up with McEligot to help train Latino students into health leaders and policymakers.
“Public policy is increasingly becoming an important topic in academia and local communities,” said Gonzalez. “Policymakers have a great role in facilitating or constraining the type of food services in a community.”
Latino Health Access (LHA), a nonprofit organization based in nearby Santa Ana, is affiliated with NOPHC.
“LHA will help lead a few classes, mainly focusing on the community-based work it does, such as its involvement in the California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities initiative,” Gonzalez said.
The local Latino communities are a particular concern for Gonzalez and the NOPHC project.
“Latinos are less physically active than the general population, and disproportionate numbers live in low-income neighborhoods with environments that help make it difficult for them to make healthy choices,” Gonzalez said. “These areas have few well-equipped, safe parks or other public spaces in which children can play and be active as well as fresh, affordable and quality food options.”
NOPHC hopes to go beyond nutrition and tackle structural problems in the community.
“It is not just what you eat or do, it is also about where you live,” he said.
Lyanna Pillazar, a health science graduate assistant at CSUF, is serving as the grant activities coordinator for both NCW and NOPHC projects, where she will serve as a liaison between the students, community partners and research teams. She is also responsible for spreading awareness through promotions and social media outlets.
For Pillazar, the two projects have provided a golden opportunity.
“This role appealed to my interests because it gave me the opportunity to work with college students, as well as address childhood obesity among immigrant populations,” said Pillazar. “In order to tackle childhood obesity, it is necessary to develop knowledgeable and well-trained leaders who can advance health promotion strategies in an applicable setting.”
The third program, Urban-Agriculture Community-Based Research Experience (U-ACRE), is a two-year community research experience headed by Sara E. Johnson, associate professor of anthropology.
The program gives 10 undergraduate students the opportunity to work on established environmental projects in the Fullerton community, including growing food in the training garden in the Arboretum.
The grant also offered the program a USDA fellowship for one graduate student to participate in a two-year urban agriculture research. The fellowship comes with a $20,000 scholarship, which includes tuition, money for books and travel, as well as a yearly stipend. The USDA graduate fellowship is currently taking applications. The deadline is March 1.
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