Through clinical studies we have sought to better understand the relationship between obesity/body composition, cardiovascular fitness, and the development of insulin resistance in children. This work began in children with a genetic form of obesity, Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS).
Body Composition in Healthy Obese Children
Much of our current research focuses on studies of healthy (non-PWS) children and the effect of fitness training on body composition and insulin sensitivity. We have worked with high-risk groups such as Native American children (Ho-Chunk Youth Fitness project), and also in school settings for obese and non-obese children. Working with the school districts is an important component of developing translational clinical research on fitness in children.
The Role of Cardiovascular Fitness in Insulin Sensitivity
We have focused on the role of fitness in influencing insulin resistance (IR), unlike many investigators who focus on the role of weight, body fat or BMI in determining risk for IR. This has led to ongoing studies in schools to determine whether a diabetes risk-assessment tool can be developed from school-based assessments. These interventions have been supported by a variety of funding from an NIH Endocrine Training grant/T32, a Thrasher Foundation grant, an ICTR grant, and a Genentech Center for Clinical Research grant.
Pediatric Fitness Through Schools
We have also been the principal investigators/academic partners of a Wisconsin Partnership grant, partnering with the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to develop a statewide fitness assessment and database for schools across Wisconsin. This grant facilitates our ability to work with various schools, tracks changes throughout the state, and provides an infrastructure for new research opportunities around the state.
This work has led to a successfully funded UW Medical Education Research Committee (MERC) grant, evaluating the role that the school environment plays in affecting Latino children’s health. Collaboration with a diverse group of university-based experts, including urban planners, landscape architects, public health nutritionists, and transportation engineers will allow us to evaluate children’s health in a school setting and closely tie in assessments of the physical (built), social and nutrition environments. This new prototype of analysis may provide new methodology for obesity research—connecting assessment of insulin resistance and childhood fitness with built environment measures.