In 1998, the Harvard Prevention Research Center (HPRC) began with 4 faculty, 3 staff, and 23 community-based advisory board members. We have now grown to more than double our original size, with our staff and faculty representing diverse disciplines including education, exercise science, nutrition, maternal & child health, sociology, social work, social epidemiology, behavioral science, pediatrics, and statistics. Our partners and collaborators now represent nearly 80 communities and organizations throughout New England.
Impact of our research on improving nutrition and physical activity
- Our Planet Health curriculum is used in middle schools throughout Massachusetts in partnership with the Boston Public Schools and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Massachusetts Healthy Choices program. The curriculum has also been disseminated worldwide – more than 10,000 copies have been distributed in all 50 US states and more than 20 countries since 2001.
- The Eat Well & Keep Moving curriculum has been widely disseminated, with over 5000 copies distributed in 50 states and more than 20 countries. This curriculum received the United States Department of Agriculture Promising Practice Award in 1997 and the Dannon Award for Excellence in Community Nutrition for 2000.
- As of July 2009, approximately 531 YMCA programs were implementing the Food & Fun After School curriculum. With an average of 40 children in each program, Food & Fun has helped about 21,240 kids to make healthier choices.
- The YMCA-Harvard Afterschool Food and Fitness Project intervention was found to increase energy expenditure per student by about 25 kcal per day (our studies indicate that an energy imbalance of about 110-165 kcal/day is fueling the obesity epidemic).
- In 2000, we collaborated with the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention – formerly the Maine Bureau of Health – and the Maine Center for Public Health to create the Maine-Harvard Prevention Research Center. Now housed at the University of New England, the Maine-HPRC’s goal is to reduce physical inactivity and obesity and improve nutrition in Maine, primarily among children and youth.
- Our work through partnerships with the Massachusetts Office for Child Care Services and the Department of Education has resulted in regulatory changes and provider training models to improve physical activity and nutrition in state-licensed afterschool and early child care sites.
- Boston’s Mayor Menino called the Play Across Boston work “a ‘playbook’ for future sports and recreation plan by the City of Boston and its partners.” This project resulted in documentation of substantial disparities in participation in 237 different out of school time programs in the city.
- The clinical materials used in the Maine Youth Overweight Collaborative have been adopted by the American Academy of Pediatrics and are being distributed worldwide, indicating both substantial impact in the rural state and important gains in knowledge of effective strategies for delivering primary care prevention.