At the committee’s Atlanta symposium, a county commissioner in Wilkes County, Georgia, discussed how county officials approached the Medical College of Georgia and the University of Georgia to help them address the county’s growing obesity rate. After conducting a community health needs assessment in conjunction with the universities, a community task force developed a Wilkes Wild About Wellness community effort that included activities and interventions at local churches and worksites and in other locations (e.g., health fairs, summer day camps, after-school nutrition programs, faith-based wellness classes, and health screenings). The university was involved with the initial assessment of the community’s health needs as well as with the design and evaluation of the intervention components (Hardy, 2005; Policy Leadership for Active Youth, 2005). The outcomes being evaluated include the number of participants, the amount of shelf space in grocery stores devoted to food items that contribute to a healthful diet, the extent of print media coverage of health issues, and the addition of walking paths and other environmental changes.
Other examples of successful partnerships can also be found. A community-based intervention in Florida with multiple collaborators (including the American Heart Association, Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Florida, the Food and Drug Administration, and Albertsons, Inc.) used the expertise of nursing students and faculty at the University of Central Florida to assist with the implementation of the intervention and to help plan and carry out the evaluation (DeVault and Watson, 2005). In Tarrant County, Texas, a partnership of Texas Christian University and community participants (including partners from the Cornerstone Community Center, the Tarrant Area Food Bank, and the Texas Cooperative Extension Tarrant County) worked together to design a program, Table Talks, that was presented in English and Spanish. The program provided information on family meal preparation and physical activity and nutrition classes. The pre-and post-intervention measures of that program included knowledge about nutrition and exercise, physical activity patterns, and dietary intake recall (Frable et al., 2004).
Key components of university-community partnerships that address childhood obesity prevention include participatory processes that engage key community members and that structure the partnership to ensure that equal attention and weight are given to the contributions of both the university and the community (Greenberg et al., 2003; Thompson and Grey, 2002). Many communities with diverse populations are cautious about the research conducted with the members of those communities. However, if the intervention is designed and implemented with the community as a partner, this community reluctance can be reduced (Chapter 3). Mechanisms to encourage these types of community-academic partnerships are needed and can be built into federal, state, and foundation grant requirements.