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Researchers Wrap Up Data Collection for Healthy Communities Study

Researchers recently completed data collection for the Healthy Communities Study (HCS). Led by Battelle and supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the HCS is the first study of its kind to systematically examine the association between characteristics of community programs and policies targeting childhood obesity and children’s obesity-related outcomes.

The extensive study collected data from community leaders and households in 130 communities across the country. Battelle staff, along with more than 200 trained local data collectors, have completed:

  • more than 5,000 household visits with parent/child pairs;
  • more than 400 visits to schools to observe the nutrition and physical activity environment; and
  • more than 1,400 interviews with key informants, including school personnel and staff from community non-profits, parks and recreation departments, and other organizations involved in youth programming and policies.

For household visits, researchers collected data about diet, physical activity, participation in community programs and other key metrics. In addition, researchers took measurements of height and weight for both parent and child and waist circumference for child participants. Information from medical records was abstracted for participating children where parental consent was obtained and the record could be retrieved. For a subset of child participants, more detailed measures of diet and physical activity (i.e., dietary recalls and use of an accelerometer) were gathered over a period of two visits. 

Community key informant interviews documented the evolution of community programs and policies (CPP) related to diet and physical activity over the past ten years, including information on intervention strategies, CPP duration and estimated reach. Trained project staff visited participating schools to record observational data on the school nutrition and physical activity environment and conduct interviews with school personnel. 

Seven protocol papers completed as part of HCS will be published this fall in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. Each of the seven papers describes a specific aspect of the study that taken together, present the full study as planned. Papers include:

  • Study Rationale and Aims
  • Study Design and Analysis
  • Operations
  • Anthropometric Measures
  • Community Programs and Policies
  • Dietary Measures
  • Physical Activity Measures

The collected data will be analyzed this fall and winter and study results will be published in 2016. The results will provide critical insights into what appears to be working to prevent childhood obesity in different types of communities, and help to inform public policy and design effective youth programs.

Battelle researchers are working with partners at the University of South Carolina, the University of Kansas and the University of California-Berkeley. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are also partners in this study.