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CHET Announces Pilot Grant Awardees
Kentucky Ag Connection - 06/18/2021

The University of Kentucky's Center for Health Equity Transformation (CHET) has awarded pilot funding to support two faculty members' research aimed at identifying, reducing and eliminating health disparities.

CHET's 2021 Health Equity Pilot Grants were awarded to researchers in UK's College of Agriculture, Food and Environment: Courtney Luecking, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Dietetics and Human Nutrition, and Shuoli Zhao, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics.

The annual program recognizes CHET core faculty and affiliates with grants of up to $25,000 for a yearlong research project. Grant funding is made possible through the support of the Office of the Vice President for Research and UK's United in True Racial Equity (UNITE) Research Priority Area.

The grant will help fund Luecking's study on obesity prevention practices in Kentucky child care centers. Luecking will evaluate the impact of new state-level obesity prevention policies for children including meal planning requirements, screen time reductions and active play time. Many students impacted by the new measures live at or near poverty in rural settings and are at increased risk for childhood obesity. Results will address unintended consequences of policy changes in child care programs and contribute new information about strategies to support equitable translation of obesity prevention policies for children.

"I'm thrilled to have support from CHET to initiate the critical work to evaluate whether health promotion policies in child care settings promote health equity, rather than contribute to increased disparity, during a significant period of child development," Luecking said. "Results will support policymakers and practitioners in allocating resources in ways that facilitate equitable translation of policy into evidence-based practice."

Zhao received the grant for his study on the racial disparities in diabetes prevalence and management among Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants. Zhao will use a national dataset to estimate the potential impact of SNAP participation on dietary intake and diabetes management under the monthly cycle. Results will give insight on the extent to which cyclical food hardship due to SNAP payment schedules may complicate glucose control among SNAP participants of different racial and ethnic backgrounds.

"A major part of my research is to understand health and dietary decision-making under financial scarcity and future uncertainty using behavior experiments," Zhao said. "This grant allows me to further expand my research agenda with secondary data analysis that explores heterogeneities in health and dietary responses to food assistance programs. I hope the findings from this project could carry out relevant policy implications in light of health equity."

Zhao's award was granted through a partnership between CHET and UNITE. One of the missions of UNITE is to support research focused on racial disparities, racial health equity and social and racial justice that will result in impactful scholarly outputs and extramural funding for sustainability.

With support from the Office of the Vice President for Research, the College of Medicine, the Markey Cancer Center, the Center for Clinical and Translational Science, and the College of Arts and Sciences, CHET's mission is "to synergize innovative, transdisciplinary and impactful research and training to improve the health of the most vulnerable residents of Kentucky and beyond."


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