Another kinesiology and community health professor, Diana Grigsby-Toussaint, is geomapping retail environments in the neighborhoods where the participating families live, looking in detail at what foods are available there. "She's also mapping how much green space is available and how that relates to outdoor play and activity," Harrison said.
Later work will add more puzzle pieces relating to the community and culture components. For example, what's the community BMI and do participants in the study believe that BMI is normal? What's the usual portion size in this culture? Are children urged to take second and third helpings at mealtime?
"Southern U.S. culture, Latin American culture, and the Sam's Club bulk-buying phenomenon are all elements of what we're trying to capture when we talk about culture," Harrison said.
And professor of applied family studies Angela Wiley is collecting data relating to childhood obesity prevention among Mexican immigrant families in the Abriendos-Caminos program so the researchers can compare parallel populations across countries.
"Childhood obesity is a puzzle, and at different stages, certain variables drop in or out of the picture. Breastfeeding versus formula feeding is a predictor, but it drops out of the model entirely when you get past babyhood. Vending machines in schools are important later in a child's life, but they weren't important before," she added.
There has been very little transdisciplinary effort to map out how all these factors work together, although research shows that no single factor is the most important, Harrison noted.
"We're each looking at different spheres in the model, but we're also looking at potential interactions. That's one of the exciting things we
|Contact: Phyllis Picklesimer|
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences