Health Promotion

Health Promotion and Wellness Research

Researchers at the Shriver Center have built a program in health and wellness that has included epidemiological, observational, and intervention studies. With funding from the National Institutes for Health (NIH), the Health Resources and Services Administration Material and Child Health Bureau (MCHB), and private foundations, our programs focus on weight loss, diet, physical activity, and physical fitness in children with autism spectrum disorders, intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), and other special health care needs.

We’ve also developed service programs that provide children and families with opportunities to participate in educational and community-based programming, and we train graduate and post-graduate students in conducting health promotion research and education with these populations.

Current Research Projects

Healthy Weight Research Network for Children with Autism & Other Developmental Disorders (HWRN-ASD/DD)
The HWRN-ASD/DD is funded via a cooperative agreement MCHB. The mission of the HWRN-ASD/DD is to advance the understanding of obesity risk factors in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities, to promote the development of evidence-based solutions to achieve healthy weight in this population, and to disseminate research findings to broad and diverse audiences.

Children’s Mealtime Study
Funded by MCHB, the goal of the Children’s Mealtimes Study is learn about eating patterns, mealtime behaviors, and parent feeding practices of young children (ages 3-8 years) with intellectual disabilities.

Health U. – A Parent-Supported Weight Loss Program for Youth with Intellectual Disabilities
Health U. is an NIH-funded weight loss research study for overweight teens and young adults ages 15-22 who have an intellectual disability (ID). The program includes weekly to biweekly group and individual sessions focusing on losing weight through healthy eating and increasing physical activity in ways that are fun and achievable. Parents receive training on supportive behavioral techniques to encourage their son/daughter to meet nutrition and physical activity goals.

Mealtime Experiences Study
Funded by the Deborah Munroe Noonan Memorial Fund, the goal of the study is to learn directly from young adults 18-23 years old who are on the autism spectrum who also have food selective behaviors (for example, do not eat as many foods as most people their age, or do not like a lot of foods) whether and how food selectivity impacts their eating experiences with family, at work or school, or in other social situations.

Health Promotion for Teens with IDD

Health U.: A Nutrition Curriculum for Teenagers with Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities
Developed by researchers and clinicians at UMass Medical School/E.K. Shriver Center.
The Health U. curriculum is designed to be taught by registered dietitians or educators who have had college-level courses in nutrition. It contains age-appropriate nutrition education materials for adolescents and young adults with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities. The goal of the Health U. program is to encourage a healthy lifestyle and includes 10 lessons, each of which provides a short discussion where new concepts are introduced, an activity that provides hands-on learning, time to engage in movement/physical activity, and a “taste test” that encourages expansion of students’ food repertoires.

Additional information and resources about health promotion for people with disabilities.

© 2020 University of Massachusetts Medical School