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We’re thrilled to announce that our New Orleans Schweitzer Fellows Program has received a $30,000 IMPACT Grant from the Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF)’s Kahn-Oppenheim Trust.

“This funding enables us to select and support three Schweitzer Fellows who will focus specifically on preventing and addressing childhood obesity in our most vulnerable neighborhoods,” says Christina Roux, MSW, LCSW, Director of our New Orleans Schweitzer Fellows Program

Each spring, the program selects 10-15 area graduate students to serve as Schweitzer Fellows (joining 200 others nationwide). These Fellows participate in multidisciplinary, reflective leadership development training, and create and implement mentored, entrepreneurial community service projects that address health and its social determinants in underserved neighborhoods.

“From launching a nutrition education series taught by medical student volunteers at local elementary schools, to implementing a CrossFit program and a community gardening program at other local schools, a number of our Fellows have naturally gravitated towards the pressing issue of childhood obesity,” Roux says. “This IMPACT Grant will help us sharpen, systematize, and measure our impact on childhood obesity at the community level.”

The incidence of childhood obesity has more than tripled during the last 30 years.  According to the latest CDC reports, more than one-third of children and adolescents living in the United States are overweight or obese.  Recent studies have also demonstrated a clear link between poverty and obesity risk: children from low income households are twice as likely to develop obesity as children from higher income households.  In addition to emotional and psychological issues, obese or overweight children are at significantly increased risk of developing chronic health diseases and conditions such as hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, sleep disorders, and heart disease.

Indisputably, childhood obesity is a dominant public health issue at the national level and has a particular relevance to our urban, underserved populations in the greater New Orleans area.  Childhood obesity is a leading cause of adult morbidity and mortality in New Orleans.  More importantly, a growing body of evidence suggests that childhood obesity, which already preferentially targets the urban poor, can lead to poor school performance, feelings of emotional isolation, and long-term impacts on relationships – both personal and professional.

The overall goal of GNOF’s IMPACT Grant program is to make the New Orleans area a resilient, sustainable, vibrant, and equitable region. The New Orleans Schweitzer Fellows Program is one of 38 local nonprofit organizations to receive an IMPACT Grant this year.

“We are thrilled to be recognized in this way, and to partner with the Greater New Orleans Foundation to make our city a healthier and more just place,” say Pritesh Gandhi, MD, Chair of the New Orleans Schweitzer Fellows Program Advisory Board. Gandhi served as a Schweitzer Fellow in Boston, MA in 2007-08, partnering with an area community agency to develop a nutritional curriculum for low-income parents of young children.

“I have seen the impact of the Schweitzer Fellows Program firsthand—both on the health and well-being of the community members Fellows serve, and on the professional trajectory of the graduate student Schweitzer Fellows themselves,” says Gandhi, now an Internal Medicine/Pediatrics Resident at Tulane University. Ninety-nine percent of Schweitzer program alumni—numbering more than 2,500 nationally—say that ASF is integral to sustaining their commitment to serving people in need.

Since 2007, the New Orleans Schweitzer Fellows Program has supported more than 50 Schweitzer Fellows in delivering over 8,000 hours of service within the city’s most vulnerable neighborhoods. The program is funded entirely through charitable donations and grants. Institutional sponsors include Tulane University School of Medicine and Louisiana State University School of Public Health.

Click here to download a press release about the IMPACT grant.