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December 5, 2002

Center for Public Health Nutrition makes funds available to communities for healthy youth program

The University of Washington has grants to share with partners in the community to tackle one of Washington’s biggest health problems: obesity.

The new Center for Public Health Nutrition is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of all Washington residents through better nutrition. The School of Public Health and Community Medicine has established the center to address growing rates of obesity in Washington. The center is asking community-based groups to apply for grants ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 for projects to promote better nutrition and physical activity. The deadline to submit letters of intent is Dec. 20, 2002.

“These funds will allow us and our community partners to address problems many families face every day. The State Department of Health tells us that one of three people in Washington is obese. And we know that obesity contributes to the death rate from cardiovascular disease and cancer. But the statistics do not speak to the problems that overweight kids face at home or at school. We are looking for projects in various communities to help make a difference,” says Dr. Adam Drewnowski, the center’s director. Drewnowski is director of the Nutritional Sciences Program in the School of Public Health and Community Medicine. He is a professor of epidemiology and adjunct professor of medicine and a member of the Public Health Sciences Division at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

The University created the center following a multimillion-dollar settlement in a global vitamin price-fixing case. Washington was one of 23 states involved. Washington distributed its settlement through the Office of the State Attorney General for programs to improve the health of the state’s consumers. Several other groups also received vitamin-related funds, totaling about $6 million. “We are grateful to Attorney General Christine Gregoire for her vision in making these funds available for nutrition and health-related projects,” Drewnowski says.

The Center for Public Health Nutrition will partner with state and local government agencies, coordinate public health nutrition efforts, and provide for effective links with nutrition practitioners and the public. The center’s mission is to conduct research in public health nutrition and food policy, provide continuing education and consumer outreach, and provide technical assistance to government agencies and community groups.

Center faculty and staff are assisting public health agencies in designing and evaluating healthy diet and physical activity initiatives. The center also plans to address “hot topics” in nutrition, such as dietary supplements, genetically modified foods, bacterial contamination, fad diets and supplements, drug-nutrient interactions, and aspects of alternative nutrition.

Partnerships with community groups across the state may be the most visible component. The center is asking community groups to apply for grants for programs to prevent obesity in children and adolescents. More information about the grants, including a Request for Proposals, is available at http://www.cphn.org or by calling (206) 616-1569.

The center is looking for two types of projects:

- Pilot, organization and/or capacity-building efforts that promote community-based approaches to improving nutrition or physical activity or both.

- Previously developed nutrition and/or physical activity programs in new settings.

Center staff say they hope to receive a broad range of applications. They define a community as a group united by geography or sociocultural characteristics. Applicants should have a demonstrated fiscal structure, or, in other words, the ability to handle and account for received funds.

The center’s staff includes Dr. Donna Johnson, assistant professor of health services, who is assistant director, and Caroline McNaughton Tittel, the center coordinator. Johnson is beginning a federally funded project to evaluate the new non-commercialism policy in Seattle Public Schools.

“Many people feel that the food environment is spinning out of control. There are efforts to control food advertising, fast foods, and school nutrition programs,” Drewnowski says. “We feel that communities should decide what approaches will work best for them, and we are looking forward to innovative programs.”

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