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National Projects by Program Area: Obesity

Recent National Grants


A $250,000 grant from the Aetna Foundation enables the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress to conduct a one-year research project to identify barriers, best practices and promising innovations for improving nutrition with the Federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.  The project will conduct the first statistical analysis of National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data to determine the effects of SNAP on nutrition and obesity in youth ages 4-19. 

A $250,000 grant from Aetna supports a new project from Partnership for Prevention to quantify the likely impact on childhood obesity of enacting selected national policies that are believed to have great potential to address this serious public health problem. Potential policies to be studied include taxes on sodas and junk foods, new food labeling policies, improved school nutrition policies, junk food advertising restrictions, transportation policies to encourage physical activity, and agricultural policies to increase production of healthy foods.


A $233,000 Aetna Foundation grant to Boston University’s Slone Epidemiology Center supports a two-year study of factors that influence obesity among African-American women, including both individual and neighborhood-level factors, and the identification of the most effective small changes individuals can make to decrease obesity. Data from more than 20,000 participants in the ongoing Black Women’s Health Study will be examined, including diet and exercise patterns, psychosocial stressors, and the neighborhood environment where the women live.

A $150,000 grant from the Aetna Foundation to the Community Alliance for Research and Engagement (CARE) at Yale University enables a study of the role of the neighborhood environment on childhood obesity risk factors and health outcomes. This research will look at a variety of built environment factors in six low-income, predominately minority neighborhoods in New Haven, Conn., as well as those factors closer to schools to see which might have a greater influence on the children’s body mass index, diet and exercise.

A $300,000 grant from the Aetna Foundation to the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center is supporting a three-year study to examine the role of pediatricians in stemming the obesity epidemic.  The research is analyzing the effectiveness of brief motivational counseling by doctors and other pediatric clinicians to low-income families in Hartford with children ages two through four. 

A $250,000 award from the Aetna Foundation to New York University School of Medicine facilitates a two-year study on the impact of new supermarkets in “food deserts” when introduced through tax credits and other incentives.  This study will examine the influence of a newly built supermarket on the local food environment in the Bronx, as well as the corresponding impact it may have on eating habits of residents in local communities in the area, which include large Latino and African-American populations.

A $248,000 Aetna Foundation grant makes possible a University of Michigan project to analyze the impact of the “built” environment in low-income neighborhoods in Detroit and its residents’ physical activity, diet and rates of obesity. The study brings together an interdisciplinary team of health researchers, urban planners, health service providers and community representatives and builds upon existing data sets compiled by the Healthy Environments Partnership.  The findings could inform the development of interventions and policies to promote health in urban communities.

A $250,000 Aetna Foundation award allows the University of Pennsylvania’s African American Collaborative Obesity Research Network to lead a one-year study of how variations in food prices influence food and beverage purchases among African-American women. Price variations for selected products at grocery stores within a defined geographical area will be analyzed in conjunction with data obtained from study participants to determine how price impacts other considerations, such as convenience and quantity when purchasing foods and beverages. Researchers hope to assess the potential for adjustments to food prices for high-calorie, low-nutrient foods and beverages to discourage their consumption and encourage the purchases of more healthful alternatives.

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