Dr. Gans research focuses on interventions in community-based settings with diverse populations to improve eating habits, increase physical activity and prevent/control obesity. She has created innovative health communication technologies to change behavior and she studies interventions to improve home, work and neighborhood environments and how these interventions interface with behavior change interventions to enhance obesity prevention. Another emphasis is on translational research to study the dissemination of effective interventions to various community and clinical settings. Her current research includes two NCI-funded studies using mobile produce markets and educational programs to increase fruit and vegetable consumption in worksites and subsidized housing sites; an NIDDK-funded study examining the effectiveness of a tailored lifestyle intervention in obese adults; a Tufts Health Foundation grant to improve the nutrition and physical activity of older adults in an assisted living community; a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant to disseminate a physical activity training program to physical education teachers; an NHLBI grant to improve the environments of family child care homes to reduce childhood obesity; and a community-based participatory research planning grant from NICHD to reduce childhood obesity in Providence.
Areas of Expertise
University of Rhode Island
University of North Carolina
How to Fix One of the Worst Healthy Food ‘Deserts’ in America
There’s no one explanation as to why wealthier people buy healthier food. By some metrics, healthier calories are more expensive. “It’s going to be a lot cheaper to buy a bunch of ramen noodles than it’s going to be to buy a bunch of fresh fruits and vegetables,” says Kim Gans, a family science professor at the University of Connecticut. There may be knowledge gaps about what types of foods are healthy: Everyone knows potato chips aren’t as good as carrots, but what about white rice versus brown? Further compounding the problem, Gans says, is that junk-food and fast-food advertising is specifically targeted at low-income people. More than anything, though, preparing fresh fruits and vegetables takes time, she says—a luxury not everyone has.
Study Sees Key Role for Child Care Workers in Curbing Obesity
National Public Radio radio
Kim Gans, a professor in the department of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Connecticut, and colleagues from Brown University, the Rhode Island Department of Health, and the University of Rhode Island, ran four focus groups with a total of 30 family child care providers (referred to in the study as FCCPs), asking them about policies regarding meals, snacks, and physical activity they maintain in their home-based day care centers. All of the FCCPs were female Hispanics.
How Is Food Insecurity Associated with Dietary Behaviors? An Analysis with Low-Income, Ethnically Diverse Participants in a Nutrition Intervention StudyJournal of the American Dietetic Association
Jennifer A.Mello, Kim M.Gans
2010 Food insecurity has been associated with lower nutrient intake as well as lower intake of fruits and vegetables. However, little is known about the association of food insecurity and dietary behaviors, including food choices and preparation methods. This study examines the relationship between food insecurity and dietary behaviors of low-income adults (N=1,874; 55% Hispanic) who completed the baseline telephone survey for a nutrition education study. From April 2003 to August 2004, data were collected on demographics and food-security status and validated dietary measures: fruit and vegetable screener and Food Habits Questionnaire were used to assess fat-related behaviors (food choices or preparation methods that lead to an increase or decrease in fat intake). χ2 tests were conducted to compare each demographic variable by food-security status. Univariate linear regression models examined dietary variables by food-security status in univariate models initially, then in multivariable models adjusting for demographics. Half of participants reported food insecurity. Food Habits Questionnaire scores were significantly greater in the food-insecure group, reflecting a higher fat intake (P
Using Qualitative and Quantitative Formative Research to Develop Tailored Nutrition Intervention Materials for a Diverse Low-income AudienceHealth Education Research
Leslie O. Strolla, Kim M. Gans, Patricia M. Risica
2006 More effective nutrition education to reach low-income and ethnic minority populations is needed. As part of a project to develop a tailored nutrition education intervention to meet the needs of low-income Hispanics and non-Hispanics, complementary, mixed methods of formative research were used to determine specific characteristics of the target population. The aim was to ensure that the full array of nutrition messages would be comprehensive enough to effectively tailor to the level of the individual. Barriers to healthy eating were delineated for three main dietary behaviors (number of items delineated in parentheses): lowering fat (11), increasing fruit (8) and increasing vegetables (6). Information was also collected regarding motivators for healthy eating (5), situational barriers to making healthy choices (4), other nutrition-related interests (8) and typical eating habits and food-related choices of the target audience.
Baseline fat-related dietary behaviors of white, Hispanic, and black participants in a cholesterol screening and education project in New EnglandJournal of the American Dietetic Association
Kim M Gans, Gary J Burkholder, Patricia M Risica, Thomas M Lasater
2003 To examine baseline fat-related dietary behaviors of white, Hispanic, and black participants in Minimal Contact Education for Cholesterol Change, a National Institutes for Health-funded cholesterol screening and education project conducted in New England. Subjects A sample of 9,803 participants who joined the study at baseline (n=7,817 white; n=1,425 Hispanic; and n=561 black). Methods Participants completed baseline questionnaires that included demographic and psychosocial items as well as the Food Habits Questionnaire, a dietary assessment tool measuring fat-related dietary behaviors. They also had their blood cholesterol level and height and weight measured. Statistical analyses Analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to compare racial/ethnic groups on continuous demographic variables, and the χ2 test of association was used to compare groups on demographic categorical variables.
REAP and WAVE: New Tools to Rapidly Assess/Discuss Nutrition with PatientsThe American Society for Nutritional Sciences
Kim M. Gans, Elizabeth Ross, Claudia W. Barner, Judith Wylie-Rosett, Jerome McMurray, and Charles Eaton
2003 Dietary changes can be helpful in preventing or treating a variety of prevalent health problems. Physicians can be helpful in helping patients make positive dietary changes, be physically active and lose weight, but, for a variety of reasons, many physicians do little nutrition counseling. There is a need for brief, user-friendly tools to enable physicians to rapidly and accurately assess patients’ diets and exercise habits as well as provide information to aid the physician in delivering effective nutrition counseling. The purpose of this paper is to discuss two new tools, WAVE and REAP, that have been developed by the Nutrition Academic Award to help physicians and other health care providers conduct nutrition assessment and counseling with their patients in a practical and effective manner. The WAVE acronym and tool is designed to encourage provider/patient dialogue about the pros and cons of the patients’ current status related to Weight, Activity, Variety and Excess. The Rapid Eating and Activity Assessment for Patients (REAP) is a brief validated questionnaire that is designed to aid providers in performing a brief assessment of diet and physical activity. An accompanying Physician Key aids the provider in discussing the patient’s answers and counseling them appropriately. REAP and WAVE can be helpful tools to facilitate nutrition assessment and counseling in the provider office. Depending on patients’ health priorities and how much time is available, these tools can be used in a variety of ways to discuss nutrition with patients during a clinical encounter in 1–9 min.
Rate Your Plate: A Dietary Assessment and Educational Tool for Blood Cholesterol ControlNutrition in Clinical Care
Kim M. Gans, Mary Lynn Hixon, Charles B. Eaton, Thomas M. Lasater
2000 Practitioners who wish to deliver targeted nutritional advice to their patients for the prevention and management of elevated serum cholesterol levels must first assess their patients' diets. Unfortunately, many primary care providers do not have sufficient training in nutrition to do this adequately. In this situation, dietary assessment instruments would be useful; however, standard dietary assessment methods such as 24-h recalls, food records, and food-frequency questionnaires are inappropriate for use in this clinical setting. Rate Your Plate (RYP), a simplified food-frequency questionnaire consisting of questions focusing on foods contributing the most fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol to the American diet, was developed by the Pawtucket Heart Health Program (PHHP) in the late 1980s and has been updated several times to reflect changes in national dietary recommendations. This review discusses the development and clinical applications of RYP and provides advice for its use in a primary care setting.