New Projects

EMPOWER Rural Extension Pilot

Current pilot study participant and researcher counties.

Rural populations have limited access to preventative care services, exercise facilities, and adequate produce due to geographic distance. Consequently, rural populations have disproportionately higher rates of obesity. The Nakamura lab developed a weight loss program, EMPOWER, which has successfully transitioned to a more accessible online format. The Rural Extension EMPOWER program has developed multiple collaborations to provide participants living in rural areas with access to a diet and lifestyle program enhanced by experts from the fields of nutrition and social work. With the help of Illinois Extension educators, Diane Reinhold, Mary Liz Wright, and Lisa Peterson, we have recruited underserved participants from 8 rural counties of Illinois to participate in a pilot program. Dr. Janet Liechty’s team in the School of Social Work provide guidance for non-dietary issues. Ashley McCartney is a Registered Dietitian at Carle healthcare providing expert nutrition advice. Participants engage in our 2-year weight loss and maintenance program via online eText augmented by Zoom calls with our interdisciplinary team. The Rural Extension EMPOWER program will expand with a full-scale program incorporating more of our rural Illinois community.

Champaign County Christian Health Center Collaboration

The EMPOWER lab is collaborating with Champaign County Christian Health Center (CCCHC) a local clinic providing free healthcare to uninsured and underinsured patients in the Champaign-Urbana area. Volunteer and Community Academic Scholar, Alison Brandvold, acts as the liaison between researchers and the clinic while also collecting data to prepare for a future nutrition and lifestyle intervention offered by the EMPOWER lab. Data collection involves both analyzing current patient records and provision of a survey to patients. Measures of interest include but are not limited to current health status, interest in dietary change, and resource accessibility. The data collected will be used to tailor the EMPOWER program to suit the needs of the CCCHC clientele with the goal of providing an effective nutrition and lifestyle program that reduces diet related disease. Supported in part by a Chancellor’s Call to Action (C2A) Project, Addressing Disparities in Health Outcomes in our Local African American Community.