‘Corner stores’ vital to urban, rural health

 Brody School of Medicine  Comments Off on ‘Corner stores’ vital to urban, rural health
Aug 022013


Dr. Stephanie Jilcott Pitts

Stores that stock little if any healthy foods could be a contributor to obesity in urban and rural communities, but such stores could also be a catalyst for healthier eating.

That’s according to researchers at East Carolina University. Their two-part study, “Formative Evaluation for a Healthy Corner Store Initiative in Pitt County, North Carolina,” was published in the July 18 issue of Preventing Chronic Disease, a publication of the CDC. It is available online at http://www.cdc.gov/pcd.

Dr. Stephanie Jilcott Pitts, an associate professor of public health at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, led a team that focused on “food deserts” — urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy and affordable food. This lack of access to healthful foods contributes to a poor diet and can lead to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.

During the spring and summer of 2011, two ECU graduate assistants audited 42 stores in rural and urban areas of Pitt County, including interviews with store owners and managers and store customers. They found that healthful foods were generally less available and of lower quality in rural areas than in urban areas.

Store owners expressed a willingness to stock more fruits and vegetables if customers demanded it. Meanwhile, customers suggested they would buy and eat more healthful foods if stores stocked them.

“The take-home message was that corner stores can be an important source of food for many people in rural and urban areas of Pitt County,” Pitts said. “While corner store owners may not perceive there is demand for healthy foods, customers, at least the ones we surveyed, seemed willing to purchase healthier foods from corner stores. So if healthier foods are provided in the stores, perhaps customers would purchase them.”

Pitts’ study was part of a Communities Putting Prevention to Work initiative, funded with a $1.6 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the Pitt County Health Department to tackle obesity and tobacco use. Grant money was available to help stores add refrigeration and other equipment to stock produce. The research was also supported by the East Carolina University Engaged Outreach Scholars Academy and the ECU Department of Public Health.

Four county stores, Mark’s Food Mart near the Pitt County Fairgrounds, Rountree Farmers Fresh Market near Ayden, Mid-Town Grocery in west Greenville and Carolina Country Fresh in Bethel, have joined the initiative and are offering fresh produce to customers. Mark’s Food Mart reported a 30 percent profit margin on produce in 2012.

Pitts credited the following people for their work on the study: ECU public health graduate assistants Karamie Bringolf, Carmeron Lloyd and Kelly Lawton; research associate Jared McGuirt; and the CPPW team of Jo Morgan, Jean Wilkerson, Diana Vetter-Craft and Chris Green at the Pitt County Health Department.

Nov 122012

According to the American Council on Exercise, the average American consumes 3,000 calories and 229 grams of fat in one Thanksgiving meal. Between breakfast, lunch and leftovers, a full day’s worth of eating could amount to 4,500 calories!

In a state and region plagued by skyrocketing obesity rates and diabetes, we can all stand to be a little more mindful of our holiday gluttony.

But don’t let that give you the holiday blues. ECU health experts want to help.

If you’re preparing the Thanksgiving meal this year, we’re pooling ideas to help you keep the calorie count under control without depriving your guests or alienating the picky eaters. We promise they will still want to come back next year.

Now through Nov. 22, ECU health sciences faculty will provide daily smart meal tips and healthy recipes to use on Turkey Day and year round.

Check back regularly or follow us on Twitter (@ECUNewsServices) to get insightful ideas from professionals at the Brody School of Medicine, College of Nursing, School of Dental Medicine and College of Allied Health Sciences.

If you have tips of your own you’d like to share, we welcome your comments here or connect with us on Twitter.

Dr. Phyllis Horns, vice chancellor

ECU Division of Health Sciences 



Is a chubby baby a healthy baby?

 College of Nursing  Comments Off on Is a chubby baby a healthy baby?
Jun 152012

Childhood obesity is increasing in the United States and this trend can begin early in life. A study by New York University School of Medicine indicates that stressed new moms are more likely than non-stressed mothers to add cereal to their baby’s bottle prior to the recommended age of 4-6 months. Stress can be related to issues like money, depression, or single-parenting.

Over-stressed mothers may seek ways to help babies sleep longer. Dr. Elizabeth Jesse, a certified nurse-midwife at ECU, notes that it is not unusual to hear mothers say that they add cereal to bottles due to the challenge of feeding around the clock.

Another reason mothers may add cereal to bottles is to increase the time between feedings to reduce formula cost. The cost savings may be dangerous for a new baby’s digestive system. Infant digestive systems are not ready for cereal prior to 4-6 months. The risk of allergies and digestive problems increases when babies are exposed to cereal and solid food before their bodies are mature enough to process the food.

Maternal depression and stress have a significant impact on how babies are fed. Dr. Jesse’s work also suggests that women who are at risk for depression during their pregnancy are almost half as likely to begin breastfeeding when they leave the hospital as women with minimal or no depressive symptoms.

Health-care providers urge new parents to follow feeding recommendations for the baby’s health, but a round, chubby baby is still the stereotypical image of a healthy baby and this image is deceiving. Overweight babies often become overweight children and, then, they become overweight adults.

Obesity begins early in life and new moms need support to make good decisions for their babies. Health-care providers can give new moms material about the recommended feeding stages. New moms should discuss feelings of sadness and despair with their doctors and nurses at their post-delivery follow-up appointment. If you feel down or blue before your appointment, call your health-care provider right away.

Preventing obesity begins during the first months of life. Remember, give your baby only breast milk or formula for the first 4-6 months of life.

–ECU College of Nursing