Tasia Smith | UO's Health Promotion and Obesity Prevention Initiative

Tasia Smith looks to build partnerships in new health cluster

Summer was no vacation for Tasia Smith. Before joining the UO's Health Promotion and Obesity Prevention Initiative, she was busy fine-tuning several manuscripts for research she had completed at the University of Florida.

"I wanted to start my new position with most of my older projects completed," Smith said. "The outcomes of these scholarly works will help to inform the direction of my future research projects."

Smith is one of four young scholars recruited into the new initiative, which is part of the UO Prevention Science Institute in the College of Education. The initiative aims to address the nation's obesity epidemic, especially prevalent among young people, through collaborative efforts of researchers from different disciplines. It also was among the provost's Clusters of Excellence chosen in 2014.

"One of the ways that I think our team can have an impact is being able to partner with all of these great individuals," Smith said. "That and the fact that we all come in with varying expertise, it will really help us to create programming that is going to be sustainable in the future. Ultimately, I hope that I am able to continue to better understand the unique needs, strengths and challenges among underserved populations and develop effective intervention programming."

Smith teamed with numerous colleagues and organizations in her doctoral research, much of which has led to published work.

In a project done with churches in northern Florida, Smith found that regular use of health-care services was associated with healthier eating and higher perceived health status among 180 African-American women battling issues related to hypertension and weight. The study was in the April issue of Women & Health.

Pulling from a national sample of 172 young people, age 11 to 17, at health care sites, faith-based organizations, schools and YMCAs, Smith's team found that children did better with healthy eating when they were provided with information, were more committed and followed a routine. Lack of information, pessimism and temptation were key barriers, according to their report in the May-June issue of the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. The participant pool was 23 percent Asian-American, 37 percent African-American, 21 percent Hispanic and 11 percent white American; the remainder were classified as others or did not report their race or ethnicity.

In the January issue of the same journal, Smith's team found that overweight and obese Hispanic women in the Bronx, New York, who actively participated in a church-based community intervention lost more weight, ate healthier and increased physical activity than did women on a waiting list for the program.

Smith will enter the classroom in winter quarter to teach a graduate course on counseling diverse populations.

"Employing a culturally sensitive approach is critical for the work that I do with underserved populations," she said. "Therefore, I am excited that I will have the opportunity to teach a course that will help future mental health professionals think more critically about how group memberships and the intersections of identities impact their work with various populations."

—By Jim Barlow, University Communications

NOTE: This story is the second of four Friday stories about faculty members hired for the Health Promotion and Obesity Prevention Initiative in the UO's Clusters of Excellence.