In recognition of their extraordinary community outreach initiatives, four APLU member institutions have been selected as regional recipients of the 2016 W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Engagement Scholarship Award. As regional winners, East Carolina University, Pennsylvania State University, Portland State University, and Purdue University will now compete for the national C. Peter Magrath Community Engagement Scholarship Award, which will be announced Sunday, November 13 in Austin, Texas during the APLU Annual Meeting. In this first part of a four-part series, APLU spotlights East Carolina University for its work to combat childhood obesity.
American childhood obesity rates have tripled over the last decade. Today, nearly a third of American children and almost half of children in Eastern North Carolina are overweight or obese. To combat this epidemic, East Carolina University (ECU) launched MATCH-Wellness — an interdisciplinary, community-university partnership — that is guided by values of reciprocity and mutual benefit.
Research indicates that education to improve nutrition and increase physical activity in adolescents generates sustainable improvement in weight years later. ECU launched its MATCH-Wellness partnership in 2007 to help boost nutrition awareness, increase exercise, and reduce obesity among children in Eastern North Carolina.
Since its inception, the MATCH-Wellness partnership has grown from one middle school teacher and one ECU faculty member to include faculty and students from the ECU Pediatric Healthy Weight Research and Treatment Center and public school staff from 15 communities at 35 public schools across three states.
Nearly 13,000 students have now participated in the MATCH curriculum, preventing an estimated 1,300 cases of adult obesity. In North Carolina, just a 3 percent shift in adults from overweight to healthy weight would yield $3 billion in annual savings. MATCH seventeen-year-olds, four years after intervention, achieved 15 percent shift to healthy weight.
To date, MATCH-Wellness’s community-engaged scholarship has produced five academic publications, 15 community articles, 22 community and 26 academic presentations, a web-based curriculum and over $3.5 million in financial support. And MATCH-Wellness will be among the first tenants of the East Carolina Research Innovation Campus for public-private partnerships, which was launched in 2015.