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Posted 08.09.06


Truman School To Assess State Obesity-Reducing Program

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Missouri has been cited as the 16th most overweight state in the U.S. Many organizations across the state have developed programs to address the growing health problem. The University of Missouri-Columbia's Truman School of Public Affairs recently was awarded a contract to evaluate the effectiveness of some of those programs and find program elements that are successful and replicable.

Jane Mosley.The Missouri Foundation for Health (MFH) awarded the Truman School's Institute of Public Policy a one-year contract of $183,081 to assess its Healthy and Active Communities (H&AC) Initiative. MFH's Initiative is an effort to decrease obesity in Missouri by funding organizations that offer projects focusing on healthy eating and an active lifestyle. Since the Initiative began in 2005, MFH has provided $3.8 million in grants to 15 Missouri organizations and will award additional grants later this year.

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Researchers at MU's Institute of Public Policy will evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the 15 current projects and provide outcome assessments, suggestions and information to each organization. MFH will use this information to improve its understanding of the type of obesity prevention programs that can be successful and how MFH can better support those programs.

"We'll conduct a comprehensive evaluation that centers on synthesizing the lessons of the individual grantees and providing insight into the effectiveness of the program as a whole," said Jane Mosley, professor of public affairs and MU's lead investigator in the study. "Our goal is to evaluate the program overall. We hope that by focusing on the large scale, MFH can encourage capacity-building at the community level and identify methods for extending the efforts in other places."

Projects funded through the H&AC Initiative vary, but all have the goal of reducing obesity and encouraging healthy lifestyles. The funded programs target populations at increased risk for developing obesity, including women and children, racial and ethnic minorities and low-income individuals with families. Project sites include St. Louis, Springfield, Rolla, Columbia, Fulton, Kennett, Bolivar, Ava and Ellington.

Mosley said that she hopes the Institute of Public Policy's evaluation will help MFH build a stronger program. The researchers will work directly with H&AC staff to develop tools and strategies to assess the effectiveness of community programs while also providing a mechanism to improve individual project elements.

Researchers from the Institute of Public Policy who will work with Mosley include Lilliard Richardson, Nathaniel Albers, Shannon D. Stokes and Bret Sanders.

MFH is the largest non-governmental funder of community health programs in the state. Since it began funding projects in 2002, MFH has provided more than $167 million in grants in its service region, which covers 84 counties and the City of St. Louis.



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