USDA $4.5M grant to establish child obesity prevention program

May 5, 2011

A five-year $4.5 million U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) grant to University of Illinois researchers will establish the Illinois Transdisciplinary Obesity Prevention Program (I-TOPP), an innovative research-based program that will combine a Ph.D. with a master's in public health (MPH) degree focused on child obesity prevention.

"This exciting new program allows us to develop novel hypotheses and approaches as researchers come together from their individual areas of expertise to solve the problem of child obesity," said Sharon Donovan, the Melissa M. Noel Professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition and I-TOPP Director.

Students in the new program will be taught to think broadly about child obesity because research has shown that no single approach adequately addresses the problem. I-TOPP scholars who receive this new degree will benefit from a blend of transdisciplinary and translational research, Donovan said.
The new degree will integrate innovative research in nutrition, child development and family studies, physical activity, public health science and practice, economics, practices in childcare centers, and the effects of media. Students will develop and test transdisciplinary interventions to prevent childhood obesity, Donovan said.

 "At the end of the students' graduate program, we will be assessing these students, comparing them to students who have received just the MPH and Ph.D. degrees to see how successful we've been in helping our I-TOPP scholars to achieve this broader, more transdisciplinary view," Donovan said.
The program will have an ongoing seminar series, develop two new courses, promote broad cross-disciplinary interactions between U of I faculty and international leaders through its visiting faculty and lecture series, and host an annual conference that Donovan believes will attract the participation of influential scholars.

Press release

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