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Department of Population Science and Policy Receives Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois Grant

December 16, 2019

Project will address children’s knowledge about nutrition and nutrition-related diseases.

Dec. 16, 2019,  Springfield, IL – Southern Illinois University School of Medicine Department of Population Science and Policy (PSP), a nontraditional academic medical department aiming to understand and advance health, development and wellness in central and southern Illinois, is the recipient of a $45,000 “Healthy Kids Healthy Families” grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois. This grant will be used to fund Phase II of a project designed to understand and shape children’s knowledge about nutrition in the summer meal programs in Arcola, Illinois.

The project, titled “Generation Health: A Qualitative Exploration of Food and Value Systems in Douglas County,” was initiated in 2018 through funding from the Lumpkin Family Foundation. In the project’s first phase, the Department of Population Science and Policy collected data from Arcola students and their adult caregivers. Responses showed that students are unfamiliar with consequences of nutrition-related diseases, often unaware of the Douglas County Summer Fun and Meals Program, and struggle to access fresh produce due to barriers like distance from grocery store. The project is led by Department of Population Science and Policy Assistant Professor Nicole Summers-Gabr, a psychologist who specializes in community research and child development.

Thanks to the Blue Cross Blue Shield grant, the Department of Population Science and Policy will build on that research by working with the Douglas County Health Department to increase awareness of the growing summer meals program and develop educational activities for families in the program in both Spanish and English.

“Our initial research showed both a lack of awareness of the growing Douglas County Summer Fun and Meals Program,” said Nicole Summers-Gabr, Ph.D. “We are honored to have been chosen by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois. This funding will allow us to translate our previous research into action. Data gathered from last year will inform the direction of the educational activities created for the Douglas County Summer Fun and Meals program,” said Summers-Gabr. “We are excited to use the information we gathered to create innovative ways to reach children in Illinois and improve their health outcomes.”

The Douglas County Summer Fun and Meals program will receive $3,000 of the grant to continue the program in a way that meets the community’s needs. “There is no greater blessing than the time, effort and support you [Nicole Summers-Gabr] and the SIU med team have invested in bettering the health outcomes of our participants through the Douglas County Summer Fun and Meals program,” stated Summer Phillips, Community Relations, Health Education and Media Manager of the Douglas County Health Department. “We are absolutely delighted and deeply grateful.”

Population Science and Policy faculty and staff have created a report of these findings which is available upon request. Phase 2 of the project will begin in 2020. Education activities will be tested during summer 2020 and will be provided to the Douglas County Health Department to access for future use.

For more information on this project or the Department of Population Science and Policy, please contact psp@siumed.edu or siumed.edu/popscipolicy.