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childhood obesity
The prevalence of childhood obesity varies among ethnic groups, age, sex, education levels and socioeconomic status. File photo
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UCSD gets $3 million to reduce Latino childhood obesity

REGION — Researchers at UC San Diego, led by the Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute, will receive about $3 million to develop approaches to mitigate childhood trauma within the Latino community and reduce childhood obesity, officials said today.

The funding is part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s California Comeback Plan and the California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine.

The effort will be conducted by a team of academic researchers from ACTRI and its Dissemination and Implementation Science Center, the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science and San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative-associated Latino community organizations.

The study will systematically examine community, organizational, family and individual predictors of childhood obesity, including adverse childhood experience-related behaviors such as stress, anxiety, reactivity and overeating. Adverse childhood experience is a term that describes potentially traumatic events that affect children, such as family violence, abuse or neglect.

The researchers also intend to intervene on key behavioral targets for obesity such as self-regulatory skills, resiliency, diet and physical activity. Recommendations and best practices to address ACEs and resilience will be developed and disseminated to local, regional and state organizations at the study’s conclusion.

“Working with the Latino community, we want to create a family-based approach to improve individual and community resilience to stress and address the obesity epidemic,” said lead principal investigator Dr. Gary Firestein, professor of medicine and ACTRI director.

“We want to test whether this approach, which involves the use of extensive informatics and analytics, works better than what’s normally been done,” Firestein continued. “Is a precision, community-based approach superior to the existing standard of care and what’s been tried in the past?”

Childhood and adolescent obesity have reached epidemic levels in the United States, the researchers said, with an estimated 17% presenting with obesity. Rates continue to rise, with older children more likely to experience obesity and at greater risk of becoming adults with obesity.

The prevalence of childhood obesity varies among ethnic groups, age, sex, education levels and socioeconomic status. In a 2019 study, the prevalence of obesity among Black (22%) and Hispanic (25.8%) children and adolescents ages 2- to-19 was higher than among both white (14.1%) and Asian (11%) children and adolescents.

While the prevalence of obesity among girls was similar to overall percentages, Hispanic boys had a 28% higher prevalence of obesity than Black boys at 19%.

Newsom’s CIAPM was launched in 2015 to support collaborative, patient-focused research and foster a new approach to health and medicine. It relies on translating available large data sets and technical innovation into better health outcomes.

Newsom’s $100 billion economic post-pandemic recovery package, part of the state’s $262.6 billion 2021-22 budget, allocates $12.4 million in new CIAPM funding for three projects, among them the San Diego effort. They join four projects that the state had previously funded.