The Arkansas Children’s Research Institute (ACRI), a research center on the Arkansas Children’s Hospital campus, has received a $9.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to create a center to study childhood obesity, ACRI announced Monday (Aug. 8).
The NIH Institutional Development Award (IDeA) will fund the creation of the ACRI Center for Childhood Obesity Prevention. The multidisciplinary center will strengthen ACRI’s obesity research efforts. The grant will support the Center’s operation for the next five years.
The IDeA program builds research capacities in states with low levels of NIH funding. The Center for Childhood Obesity Prevention will be an IDeA Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE).
The COBRE program develops research infrastructure. Experienced research mentors will help junior investigators complete research projects and obtain additional funding. Weber and the mentoring teams expect those investigators to become independent within two years, when they will be replaced with new junior investigators who will establish their own projects, the release said.
Junior investigators will study the origins of pediatric obesity as well as tools for prevention and reducing associated problems such as diabetes. Study topics will include what interventions during pregnancy can reduce the risk of obesity and how preschool educators can help prevent obesity. Two core research units in biostatistics and metabolism will be created.
According to the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, 39% of Arkansas public school children were overweight or obese in 2013-14.
The center will be led by Dr. Judith Weber, a professor of pediatrics in the College of Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. The center is the third ACRI major childhood obesity initiative to receive a major government award this year. It will be ACRI’s first COBRE program.
Partners in the effort include the Arkansas Department of Health, the Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center, the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, the UAMS CTSA Translational Research Institute, the UAMS Department of Pediatrics, the UAMS College of Public Health, the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, and the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.