Provides research-based educational programs that seek to improve health, nutrition and safety of individuals, families and communities. Programs in this area address food safety, wellness, healthy lifestyle through proper diet, nutrition and exercise, food insecurity, as well as food choices and behavior across the lifespan.
The face of rural America is changing, and so is the family. Many of the problems in the rural areas are related to poverty. Small farm families in the South are the most deprived. According to the Hope Networks, in Louisiana, the number of families below the poverty level is over 36 percent in some rural areas. Such families have persistently low income and are characterized by high infant mortality rates, high incidence of teenage pregnancy, and large numbers of female-headed households. These families also face many other problems ranging from health and nutrition to family relations and youth delinquency.
Diet and health are linked, and good nutrition is a key preventive health measure. Five of the leading causes of death in the United States have been associated with diet. These include coronary heart disease, some type of cancer, stroke, diabetes mellitus, and hypertension. Dietary excesses or imbalances also contribute to other problems, such as high blood pressure, obesity, dental diseases, osteoporosis, and gastrointestinal diseases. Together, these conditions related to diet impose substantial illness on Americans. In Louisiana, rates of rural poverty, minority poverty, infant mortality, low birth-weight infants, and low births of teen mothers are among the nation's highest.
Obesity, a risk factor in all leading causes of death, affects 30 percent of women, 15 percent of men and 25 percent of adolescents, with highest rates observed among low-income and minority groups. Nearly 50 percent of African-American women are overweight. According to the Center for Disease Control, Louisiana is among the top states in the United States with obesity problems among the population.
The goal of this research program is to generate research results that can be used to address issues to enhance the quality of life in rural Louisiana. While research projects are on-going, areas of research focus include, but are not limited to: