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SPH researcher receives $2.4 million to test healthy food program for American Indians

UW EPI NEWS | May 2, 2018
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Amanda Fretts, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington School of Public Health, has received a $2.4 million grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities to test a program to improve the dietary habits of American Indians with type 2 diabetes.

“Diet is a cornerstone of diabetes control, and greater efforts are needed to encourage healthy eating in underserved communities with a high burden of diabetes,” Fretts said. “Improving healthy food budgeting, purchasing and cooking skills among American Indians with diabetes, who reside in a rural community, may improve diet and cardio-metabolic health outcomes.”

The nearly four-year grant will allow Fretts and her collaborators to design, implement and evaluate the effectiveness of a culturally-tailored intervention program targeting diabetics who reside on the Cheyenne River Sioux reservation in South Dakota. The intervention will be tailored in partnership with the community. The curriculum aims to address major barriers to healthy eating that were previously identified by community members and tribal leaders.

The researchers will be looking for changes to diet quality, such as the amount of processed foods eaten, and to the population’s ability to budget for, purchase and cook healthy food.

Type 2 diabetes is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality among American Indians in the United States. Over the past two decades, numerous obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease prevention interventions for adults have been implemented in clinical settings in American Indian communities. However, most of these intervention programs focus on diet education and/or structured physical activity in adults without diabetes.

“Although important, these curricula do not address basic underlying contextual barriers that prevent individuals from being able to consume a healthy diet, including budgeting and cooking skills,” Fretts said. “Development of a program that addresses these contextual barriers is imperative to the success of any diabetes management program.”