Delta Obesity Prevention Research Unit (Delta OPRU)

The University of Southern Mississippi is a partner in the Delta Obesity Prevention Research Unit (Delta OPRU).  This project is funded by the Agricultural Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (ARS/USDA).  Southern Miss has a 15 year history of partnering with the ARS/USDA to conduct nutrition intervention research in the Lower Mississippi Delta Region of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Delta OPRU is the only research unit in America dedicated to rural and at risk populations and their nutrition problems. 

Delta OPRU Vision

Through collaborative efforts the health and well-being of individuals, families, and communities in the Lower Mississippi Delta will be improved. 

Delta OPRU Mission

Evaluate the role of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans in preventing obesity and reducing chronic disease-related factors associated with obesity in the Delta of Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. 


Southern Miss will contribute to the Delta OPRU vision and mission by collaborating with other Delta OPRU partners to evaluate existing food patterns of Delta adults, and to adapt those patterns to better meet the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005. The first goal is to identify specific small, incremental changes to the typical Lower Mississippi Delta (LMD) diet that could significantly reduce MyPyramid food group inadequacies. These modifications would utilize familiar or minimally modified LMD food items and consider time, availability, and cost barriers encountered by LMD residents. After identifying promising modifications, we will evaluate the effectiveness of an intervention to promote adoption of the specific identified dietary changes. The target group will be members of social and altruistic women’s organizations in the Lower Delta of the state of Mississippi, where participation in organizations such as garden clubs and sororities is common among educated women.  We expect that a successful intervention will yield improvement in the diets of the participants, our primary outcome measure. Secondary outcomes to be evaluated will be weight status and blood pressure.  We also expect that successful adoption of healthier food choices by these educated, influential women will ultimately lead to diffusion to and adoption of healthier food choices by those whom these women influence. 

Partners in the Project

ARS/USDA, Stoneville, Mississippi and Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Alcorn State University, Lorman, Mississippi 


Overall project period: September 2009-September 2013

  • Year 1: Evaluate existing LMD patterns and modify patterns to reduce food group inadequacies.
  • Year 2: Formative research to design and pilot-test nutrition intervention components and recruit women’s organizations to participate
  • Year3: Implementation of nutrition intervention
  • Year 4: Evaluation and dissemination of intervention results 

Point of Contact

Carol L. Connell, PhD, RD

Associate Professor, Nutrition & Food Systems

The University of Southern Mississippi

118 College Drive #5172

Hattiesburg, MS 39406

Phone: 601-266-6341

FAX: 601-266-6343