by Rochelle Cason-Wilkerson, MD

I’m excited to discuss the innovative and exciting things to come as The Center for African American Health continues to develop partnerships and collaborations to improve the health of the community. The Center, now a member of the Family Resource Center Association of Colorado, has programming which touches lives from early childhood to the elderly.  My excitement extends not only from my current role as an executive board member for The Center but as a pediatrician, research scientist, wife, and mother.

As a physician-scientist, my passion is stopping the epidemic of childhood obesity which disproportionately affects the Black community. I believe that by including the voice of the community, we can develop programs that will make a true impact.  Working with the CEO/Executive Director for The Center, Deidre Johnson, we applied for a Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CCTSI) grant to enhance community engagement around the problem of childhood obesity. The prevalence of obesity in non-Hispanic black children, aged 2 – 19, is 22% for African American children versus 14.1% for whites. For African American children aged 2 – 14, in Colorado, the rate of obesity and those overweight is 36% versus 22% for white children. There is still much work to be done to address these health disparities.

This grant serves to develop a community/academic partnership so that each entity better understands what the other does and how we can work together to make the community healthier. The Center has a long history of working with the University of Colorado; however, this project will be the first of its kind in that it is centered around African American children. What we hope to develop from this process is a sustainable, culturally tailored, community-based intervention to help African American children who have an unhealthy weight. While there are already evidence-based interventions in the community, many were initially developed using a population of middle-income Caucasian families.  Our researchers have worked to tailor these programs to minority populations who have experienced minimal improvement in weight and health. We know—now more than ever—is it imperative to truly develop an intervention that is created by us for us.

This project is just the first step in gathering community input; asking the hard questions to determine what is needed to help our children obtain and maintain a healthy weight.  And we are confident progress will occur because The Center for African American Health is a willing, able, and apt partner with the University of Colorado School of Medicine to accomplish this goal. I welcome the community to join us in this endeavor.

About the Author:

Dr. Rochelle Cason-Wilkerson is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, Section of Nutrition. She also currently works in Lifestyles Medicine Clinic at Children’s Hospital of Colorado, a tertiary care weight management clinic. She is married and mother of two rambunctious boys. Originally from California, she now has worked and lived in Colorado for the last 10 years and calls Aurora home.