An innovative walking program initiated by the Department of Nutrition and Food Systems at Southern Miss recently received a $560,000 boost in federal funding.
The extra money has been added to a $2 million grant awarded last summer by the National Institutes of Health for a five-year community-based participatory research intervention to increase walking in the Hattiesburg area.
The project, designated as HUB City Steps, includes a partnership with the City of Hattiesburg. There are three primary components:
• Developing and assessing the community to promote physical activity and healthy food choices.
• An intervention phase to test the effects on blood pressure and other health indicators from a walking program using social support.
• A maintenance phase to determine if motivational enhancement helps individuals to sustain walking after the intervention.
Dr. Kathy Yadrick, chair of the Department of Nutrition and Food Systems, serves as the grant project’s coordinator. Yadrick said the supplemental grant will expand the original initiatives by involving more community members directly in building community support to sustain increased walking and physical activity in the Hattiesburg area.
Over the past year, Southern Miss has worked with its community partners to plan details of the intervention, while mapping and evaluating the community environment for physical activity, particularly the walking tracks.
“This community walking program, kicking off in January 2010, will be enhanced by the involvement of community members as leaders of walking groups,” said Yadrick. “The training and support these individuals receive through this enhanced funding will prepare them to lead activity groups and other health awareness activities throughout our community. And they will serve as resources for the neighborhoods and community groups they belong to.”
As part of the follow-up phase, scheduled for August 2010-July 2011, community members will receive training in community health education and advocacy skills such as leading exercise classes and health education and awareness sessions. The ultimate goal is to sustain awareness, while increasing support and involvement in physical activity in Hattiesburg.
“The grant will significantly amplify the impact of Dr. Yadrick’s community walking program, providing employment and training to numerous community members, thereby strengthening the walking program itself,” said Dr. Michael Forster, dean of the College of Health at Southern Miss. “I’m confident that this project will serve as a catalyst for a range of sustainable community-based health programs and serve as an attractive model for emulation elsewhere.”
About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at www.usm.edu.