Extension seeking community facilitator as CDC project expands to Arkansas
By Ryan McGeeney
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture
- 4 Arkansas counties added to CDC obesity reduction project
- Investigators looking at community-based approaches to reducing obesity
- Cooperative Extension Service seeking qualified applicants to implement strategies
LITTLE ROCK — Cooperative Extension Service administrators are seeking qualified applicants to help implement obesity-reduction strategies in four Arkansas counties as part of an ongoing project funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Lisa Washburn, assistant professor of health with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said Arkansas and Louisiana were added to the group of states — now totaling eight — which are participating in the three-year, CDC-funded project.
As part of the project, the Cooperative Extension Service will be implementing obesity-reduction strategies in Chicot, Craighead, Jefferson and Monroe counties, each of which have obesity rates exceeding 40 percent in the adult population.
Washburn said the project team plans to implement three strategies, the first of which will involve providing education and promotional support for environmental approaches to reduce obesity in the targeted counties.
“That’d be things like increasing access to physical activity, and educating folks in the community about healthier eating habits, food preparation, and exercise classes,” Washburn said. “We’re also going to be working to engage and support community coalitions so we can all work together to help increase access to healthy foods and beverages, as well as places to be active.”
The second strategy will involve increasing residents’ access to healthy food retail by connecting consumers with farmers’ markets, roadside produce stands and other sources of fresh produce.
“We’re also going to be working with consumers to teach them how to include healthier foods in their diets,” Washburn said. “Sometimes consumers don’t know how to prepare foods, whether it’s fresh fruits and vegetables or canned or frozen foods.”
The third strategy will involve connecting residents with opportunities for physical activity, including access to local parks and walking trails.
Washburn, who is the principal investigator for the Arkansas portion of the project, said administrators are looking to hire a regional program associate to focus specifically on this project to reduce obesity for the next two years.
“We’re looking for someone with a background in public health, community health or family and consumer sciences,” Washburn said. “Someone with experience working in and with communities, someone with a background implementing community-based approaches to improve health.
“Specifically, somebody with a background with policy, systems and environmental changes to increase access to physical activity and healthy foods,” she said.
The associate will be based in Marianna, but will spend most of his or her time working with communities in the counties involved in the obesity reduction project, Washburn said. She said she hopes to hire someone soon enough to begin working within the first week of January 2016.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service