Researcher to help low-income mothers improve health with $3.3 million grant

March 31, 2011

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- A Michigan State University nursing researcher has been awarded $3.3 million to help low-income mothers who are overweight or obese improve their health by eating well, being active and dealing with stress.

The intervention program, called Mothers In Motion and funded by the National Institutes of Health, is led by Mei-Wei Chang, a researcher at MSU's College of Nursing. Chang will partner with two community-based programs: the federally funded Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, and MSU Extension.

"More than 52 percent of American women 20 to 39 years old are at risk for having high blood sugar, heart disease and other health conditions because they are overweight or obese," Chang said. "To have a broad impact on obesity in our state, these partners have joined forces to address the underlying issues that cause weight gain in our target audience of young, low-income, overweight and obese mothers."

This Mothers In Motion research will measure how well program participants respond to stress and monitor changes in body weight, blood sugar and some types of fat in the blood. The study will enroll 465 young, low-income overweight and obese mothers 18 to 39 years old from four local WIC programs in the city of Detroit and Calhoun, Genesee and Jackson counties.

Educational messages on healthy eating, exercise and handling stress will be delivered through interactive DVDs that mothers can watch in their homes. In addition, peer educators who work at MSU Extension will lead phone discussions during which participants encourage each others' progress. For comparison, half of the study participants will not receive the Mothers In Motion DVDs until after the data collection phase of the study is complete.

Once the Mothers In Motion has been studied in Michigan, the program will be shared nationally through WIC, MSU Extension and other community-based programs that promote healthy eating and physical activity, Chang said.

The five-year study is supported by a grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, part of the National Institutes of Health. It builds upon findings of a previous NIH grant that enrolled 129 participants in a 10-week intervention.

Chang's overall research aims to reduce the risk of Type-2 diabetes and prevent obesity among low-income pregnant and postpartum mothers by promoting healthy eating, physical activity and stress management.
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