Creating healthy afterschool programs the focus of NIH grant
September 12, 2012
Arnold School exercise scientist Dr. Michael W. Beets is embarking on a four-year study to help local afterschool programs meet state and national standards for physical activity and healthy eating.
The study, Physical Activity and Nutrition Intervention in Afterschool Programs, is funded by a prestigious RO1 grant from the National Institutes of Health, said Beets, an assistant professor in the Department of Exercise Science.
Beets’ study will involve some 20 afterschool programs that serve primarily low-income minority youth in South Carolina’s Midlands. By the end of the study he expects it will have touched the lives of some 1,200 young people.
The study will feature a cadre of researchers who will train leaders and staff of after- school programs to enhance physical activity efforts and make foods more health friendly.
The study could have implications for similar programs elsewhere in the U.S. where more than 8.4 million children aged six to 14 years attend afterschool programs from 3 to 6 p.m. for an average of 8 hours per week.
In his abstract detailing the study, Beets noted the best physical activity standards come from California which mandates after- school exercise participants to achieve at approximately 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily. Healthy eating guidelines promulgated by Harvard University require serving fruits and vegetables each day and restricting foods with added sugars, such as soda.
Beets said the physical activity component of his study involves helping local program staff develop core competencies in physical activity that allow them to maximize the time that children are active.
The effort to improve the snack component has recruited a patron through the Piggly Wiggly grocery chain which is offering discounts on healthy snacks, mostly fresh fruits.
Beets joined the Department of Exercise Science faculty four years ago. Today, he is Director of the Maters of Public Health in Physical Activity program.
In 2000, Beets earned a bachelor’s degree and, in 2003, two master’s degrees, both from Wichita State University. He earned his doctorate from Oregon State University in 2007.
Four co-principal investigators have signed on to assist and advise the study, including Dr. Russ Pate of the Department of Exercise Science, Dr. Darcy Freedman of the College of Social Work and Dr. Ruth Saunders and Dr. Brie Turner-McGrievy, both of the Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior.