University of Massachusetts Medical School – Worcester Prevention Research Center

Removing social, environmental and family barriers to childhood obesity prevention


Obesity is a major public health problem among adults and children in the U.S. Approximately one third of U.S. adults are obese, with another third overweight. Childhood obesity rates have tripled over the past three decades, with 42 percent of children currently overweight or obese. Rates are higher among racial/ethnic minorities. In children and adults, obesity is associated with multiple chronic diseases and health conditions, and shorter life expectancy. Obese children often experience social discrimination and decreased emotional well-being.

The University of Massachusetts Worcester Prevention Research Center (UMW-PRC) will test the impact of a family-focused community health worker (CHW)-delivered intervention to promote the use of available healthy eating and physical activity resources among families in the Union Hill neighborhood of Worcester through improvements in social norms, parental efficiency to influence child obesity causing behaviors, and parenting skills. This approach will be compared to a CHW-delivered intervention that promotes positive child behavior. This intervention builds on a naturally occurring built-environment intervention in the neighborhood, consisting of initiatives led by the city of Worcester for crime reduction and economic development and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Mass in Motion (MiM) program that promotes healthy food access and built environment improvements. In addition, the UMW-PRC will use statewide child body mass index (BMI) data collected by the Department of Public Health in collaboration with public schools to compare the impact of the combined built environment interventions in Union Hill to the MiM program only implemented in comparable urban neighborhoods in MA. The study will evaluate the impact of the intervention on diet, physical activity and BMI measures on parent-child pairs, and application of built environment resources.

Project Identifier Removing social, environmental and family barriers to childhood obesity prevention

Funding Source PRC Program

Project Status Active

Host Institution University of Massachusetts Medical School

Health Topics Physical activity | Obesity & overweight | Nutrition | Healthy youth

Research setting School or school district | Neighborhood

Race or ethnicity White |African American or Black |Asian or Pacific Islander |Hispanic or Latino

Gender Males and Females

Age group Children (4-11 years)

Contact Information Center
UMass Worcester Prevention Research Centers
Room AS8.2064
368 Plantation Street
Worcester, MA 01605

Principal Investigator
Stephenie Lemon, PhD

PRC Deputy Director
Milagros Rosal
Phone: (508) 856-3173