Latina Researcher to Examine How Nutrition Policy Affects Minority Children

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Emma Sanchez-Vaznaugh
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Emma Sanchez-Vaznaugh, a former Salud America! grantee, has received a $3.2 million federal grant to study how federal and state nutrition policies and community environments affect the health of different racial/ethnic populations.

Sanchez-Vaznaugh is an associate professor of health education at San Francisco State University.

Over the next five years, Sanchez-Vaznaugh and her team will investigate whether the policies—which attempt to improve school nutrition standards and reduce childhood obesity—are effective across different racial/ethnic populations, according to a news release.

cafeteria school food lunch lineThe study will also evaluate whether the policies are more effective when children attend school in neighborhoods with healthier food options.

“We hypothesize that the [federal and state nutrition] policies will be associated with improvements in body weight outcomes among children, but we know from our prior research that some schools have more healthy food in their communities and others do not. So these differences could enhance or undermine the effects of those policies,” said Sanchez-Vaznaugh said in the news release about her National Institutes of Health study. “One of the policies we are looking at could have the potential to reduce disparities in childhood obesity.”

The researchers will compare the body weights of fifth, seventh and ninth graders who attended California public schools during the periods before and after the policies were implemented, according to the news release. The study will link that data to the food outlets or restaurants located near the children’s schools during the same time frame to assess the role of the surrounding food environment.

“Given that two of our major public health goals are to eliminate health disparities and prevent obesity, there is a need for effective interventions that can prevent obesity early in life,” Sanchez-Vaznaugh said in the news release.

The study builds on Sanchez-Vaznaugh’s research on policy and population health, which Salud America! helped her build.

Salud America! was instrumental in my ability to craft a research portfolio about scientific questions I am passionate about, for example, the influences of policies on population health,” she said. “Additionally, Salud America! connected me with many leading scientists in my field including Guadalupe (Suchi) Ayala and Jim Sallis, with whom I remain connected to this date.”

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