Tabak receives $3.3 million NIH grant to study obesity in young mothers

Community Engagement; Faculty; Public Health; Research

Young mothers are facing obesity and chronic disease at epidemic proportions, and Washington University in St. Louis researchers will use a new grant to test alternatives for prevention and intervention.

Rachel Tabak, research associate professor at the Brown School, has received a five-year, $3.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study ways to prevent weight gain and chronic disease among mothers age 18-35.

“Excessive weight gain among young adult women age 18-35 years is an alarming and overlooked trend that must be addressed to reverse the epidemics of obesity and chronic disease,” Tabak said. “During this vulnerable period, women tend to gain disproportionally large amounts of weight compared to men and other life periods.

“The research team developed a lifestyle modification intervention, Healthy Eating and Active Living Taught at Home (HEALTH) that prevented weight gain, promoted sustained weight loss and reduced waist circumference in partnership with Parents as Teachers (PAT), a national home-visiting, community-based organization with significant reach in this population,” she said.

HEALTH embeds content related to healthy eating and physical activity within PAT’s existing curriculum and visit structure, which utilizes an existing channel for the intervention well beyond the study funding.

The new grant, “Disseminating & Implementing a Lifestyle Based Healthy Weight Program in a National Organization,” will extend those findings with a controlled trial to evaluate the dissemination and implementation of HEALTH across three levels — to a mother directly; through a parent educator who comes into the home; and through the Parents as Teachers website.

This study builds on a longstanding partnership between Debra Haire-Joshu, the Joyce Wood Professor at the Brown School and co-investigator of the new study, and PAT National Center, which provides a natural system for moving research into practice.

“The findings from this new study will have significant potential to help reverse the trend of excessive weight gain among young adult women, a critical priority target in battling the epidemics of obesity and chronic disease, by reaching women with an evidence-based intervention nationwide,” Tabak said.

Tabak is a part of the Prevention Research Center, the Center for Diabetes Translation Research and the Envolve Center for Health Behavior Change. She works in obesity prevention and community-based physical activity and nutrition strategies.

Tabak has a strong background in nutrition, and is an expert in dissemination and implementation research. She is involved in several research studies examining interventions to promote healthy nutrition and activity behaviors, particularly in families within the home environment and among employees at worksites.

This research is supported by the National Heart, Lung, And Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01HL143360. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.