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Do healthy habits in school mean healthier lives?

Released: Thursday, March 02, 2006

Louisiana researchers partnering with local schools to find out.

BATON ROUGE, La. – Field scientists, psychologists and behavior specialists from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center (PBRC) are looking for local elementary school teachers and students to find out if a school environment designed to encourage positive lifestyle changes can improve health among youngsters.

Center researchers want to introduce lessons, healthy lifestyle changes and behaviors at schools to improve health and to provide in-home learning via the internet to reinforce the theme. Then, they plan to measure any improvements that may occur in students’ lifestyles.

The idea they are testing is simple: can solid early training coupled with important changes in the school or home environment be a useful tool in the quest for healthier children nationwide?

“We call the study LA Health, because we’re aiming to do just that, build a healthier Louisiana,” said Tiffany Stewart, Ph.D., one of the lead researchers on the project. “The idea we are testing is that developing a total conscientiousness about health during these critical developmental years will be an important means of turning our children toward a permanent, healthy lifestyle.”

Center researchers have already recruited schools and teachers in Avoyelles, East Feliciana, East Carroll, Madison, Pointe Coupee, and St. John parishes and hope to recruit in Franklin parish as well.

LA Health researchers are working to influence the students on lifestyle changes and nutritional health as well as provide them, their schools and parents with educational materials, an interactive Web site and a newsletter.

Teachers at participating schools have already been trained to be health researchers and to turn their classrooms into living laboratories. Through planned lessons, activities, and on-site measures, teachers will be able to provide helpful insight to researchers and build healthy lifestyles in their students. Researchers will also visit the schools twice a year, carrying portable measurement and assessment equipment, surveys and cameras.

The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is a campus of the Louisiana State University System and conducts both clinical and basic research. It is the largest academically based nutrition research center in the world, with the greatest number of obesity researchers on faculty. The Center's nearly 600 employees occupy several buildings on the 234-acre campus.

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The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the causes of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. Itis a campus of the Louisiana State University System and conducts basic, clinical and population research. The research enterprise at the Center includes approximately 80 faculty and more than 25 post-doctoral fellows who comprise a network of 50 laboratories supported by lab technicians, nurses, dieticians, and support personnel, and 19 highly specialized core service facilities.  The Center's more than 500 employees perform research activities in state-of-the-art facilities on the 234-acre campus located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.