Immigration, obesity linked

Hannah Nusser and Hannah Nusser

Researching the connection between the phenomenon of overweight and obese children and the growing number of immigrant children in the U.S. has become an interest for one University faculty member.

Kelly Balistreri, the associate director of the National Center for Marriage Research at the University, recently received a federal grant from the National Institute of Health to research the relationship between socioeconomic status and overweight children in the U.S.

The grant, titled the Demographic Analysis of Socioeconomic Status Stability ‘amp; Well-Being Among Children of Immigrants, is $211,166 for two years of research and development. If after the first year the project has made sufficient progress and the NIH budget allows, another $172,239 will be given, totaling $383,405.

The project is aimed specifically at the health of immigrant youth, Balistreri said.

A striking factor in the mystery of childhood obesity in the U.S. is that less obesity is seen in white children with a higher socioeconomic status, she said. On the contrary, high socioeconomic status in black youth leads to a higher obesity rate.

Because of this seemingly flipped relationship, the study of immigrant youth is important, Balistreri said.

‘This is important because children who live in immigrant families is the fastest growing segment of U.S. society under age 18,’ she said. ‘In conjunction with this increase in children living in immigrant families, you have an increase in overweight and obese children.’

Wendy Manning, director of the Center for Family and Demographic research, said it is a major accomplishment to have someone at the University working on this grant.

‘It’s exciting that we have somebody at Bowling Green who’s doing research on the well-being of children of immigrants and will help fully move our understanding forward and improve the health and well being of the children,’ Manning said.

Deanne Snavely, interim dean of the Graduate College and Vice Provost for Research, said the University intends to submit more grant proposals, four of which are currently under development.

‘I believe BGSU will be able to garner substantial funding for research and renovation [or] building projects,’ Snavely said.