Public Health Symposium

2002 Public Health Symposium

Concurrent Sessions: Biological Markers of Obesity Related Diseases

Moderator: Sri Kannan, PhD
Assistant Professor of Human Nutrition
Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health


  • Anita Sandretto, PhD
    Lecturer in Human Nutrition
    Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health
  • Charlene Acker, Project Coordinator, REACH,
    Genesee County Community Action Resource
    Department, Flint, Michigan
  • Holly Noble, RD, UMHS M-FIT Community Health
    Promotion Division Coordinator, M-FIT Supermarket
    Nutrition, U-M Health Systems, Ann Arbor, MI
  • Cathy Fitzgerald, MA, RD, UMHS M-FIT Community
    Health Promotion Division Coordinator, Healthy Dining
    Program, University of Michigan Health Systems, Ann Arbor, MI

The overall session will recognize the inter-individual and ethnic differences in the responses to environmental measures related to prevention of obesity. We will review the currently recommended anthropometric methodologies, including decision rules for assessing overweight and obesity among different ethnic sub-populations. Ongoing cultural and environmental initiatives from the CDC funded REACH 2010 Healthy Eating and Harambee Dinners Program to address health disparities in infant mortality among African Americans in Genesee County; Flint, Michigan, will be examined. A process report will be provided on the innovative environmental nutrition intervention methodologies that have been developed and implemented by the UMHS M-FIT Community Nutrition Program. Among several important factors, the variability in exposures to dietary patterns may contribute to differences in the biological markers of risk and protection against obesity mediated health outcomes. We will present findings from scientific studies that have tested the hypothesis of the obesity preventive dietary constituents among cultural sub-groups. Biological markers of intakes of macro- and micronutrients and associations with oxidative stress and inflammatory activity related to general and central adiposity will be examined.


  • Identify the association between anthropometric measurements and dietary intake patterns relevant to the study of obesity and disease occurrence
  • Evaluate the importance of obesity prevention efforts in programs that are targeted at reducing health disparities in infant mortality
  • Discover innovative strategies of partnering with community businesses and corporate settings to positively impact obesity prevention efforts in the community

Recommended Readings

Participant Profiles

Anita Sandretto, PhD, is Lecturer and Program Director, Nutrition Program, Department of Environmental Health Sciences, UM SPH. Dr. Sandretto's research interests center around the interplay of nutritional status, physical activity and the effect of that interplay on body weight and body composition throughout life. Future research opportunities include the roles of dietary intake (manipulation of major organic nutrients) and physical activity (type and amount) on the prevention and/or treatment of overweight, obesity, and disproportionate body fatness.

Charlene M. Acker is Project Coordinator, REACH 2010 Nutrition and Healthy Eating Program. In 2000, a consortium of various agencies, community-based organizations, Genesee County Health Department and faculty from the University of Michigan in Flint and University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor, formed a coalition to address infant mortality in related health disparities in the African American community. With funding from the Center for Disease Control, a Community Action Plan was developed. Included in the Action Plan was an intervention that would address the barriers to healthy eating and physical activity that may contribute to the poor birth outcomes that the African American mothers were experiencing. Charlene Acker is currently collaborating with faculty from U-M SPH Nutrition, EHS, HBHE and HMP Departments, SPH Office of Community Based Public Health, U-M Flint, UMHS MFIT, and Genesee County Health Department in Flint, to develop a cultural nutrition curriculum that addresses the specific macronutrient and micronutrient needs of the African American expectant mother and her family. Some of the projects that Mrs. Acker has been involved with during her tenure with GCCARD include:

  • GCCARD Annual Walk for Warmth, a fundraiser to help supplement the funds available for aid to residents who are experiencing heat-related emergencies during the cold winter months.
  • Chairperson of the Broome Team, which is a consortium of many agencies, community based organizations, and faculty from U-M that focuses on community-university participatory research.
  • Recording Secretary for Community Based Organizations (CBOP), an organization that exists to strengthen the position of its partners to have an equal position with the other organizations that do community based participatory research.
  • Member of the National Black Social Workers.

Holly Noble, Coordinator of the M-FIT Supermarket and Healthy Dining Program, is a Registered Dietitian who has worked at M-FIT Health Promotion at the University of Michigan Health System for the past four years. She is co-coordinator of the M-FIT Supermarket and M-FIT Healthy Dining Programs. In her position at UMHS, Holly has had the opportunity to supervise and mentor volunteers and nutrition students; create and evaluate nutrition education materials for culturally diverse populations; teach nutrition education classes and seminars to corporate and community clients and lead and participate in special research grants such as the March of Dimes Folic Acid Education Program entitled "Great Expectation with Folic Acid" and "Sisters Get Together with the B Attitude: B stands for Folic Acid" programs. Her goal is to teach people how to enjoy eating healthy. Away from work, she enjoys cooking, sports, traveling, and church activities.

Catherine M. Fitzgerald, MA, RD, is a Nutrition Specialist with MFIT Community Health Promotion Program. At M-FIT since 1995, she has been instrumental in developing and implementing the M-FIT Healthy Dining Program. Today, over 20 Ann Arbor area restaurants, several food service establishments, including the University of Michigan Health System's (UMHS) cafeteria, a UMHS office building cafeteria, and the University of Michigan Law school's residence hall cafeteria, participate in this program and identify healthier choices. During the 2001/2002 school year, Cathy worked with an Ann Arbor area elementary school. Healthy eating tips in the cafeteria and coordinating displays were developed for each month, and teachers' nutritional resources were updated. Presenting seminars on a variety of nutrition-related topics for corporate clients, UM employees, and community members, is another important outreach avenue. Professionally, Cathy has been an officer in the local dietetic association, a liaison for the state dietetic association, and is currently a trustee of the Michigan Dietetic Association Institute. In 2000, the M-FIT team was honored by the Michigan Dietetic Association with a Public Relations Award for the Healthy Dining Program

Sri Kannan, PhD, is Assistant Professor, Nutrition Program, Department of Environmental Health Sciences, UM SPH. Dr. Kannan's research focus is on micronutrients and biomarkers of health and disease. Her lab group is currently exploring the biological role of the dietary risk and protective nutrients and oxidative and hemostatic stress markers and inflammation biomarkers in response to exposure to airborne particulate matter PM10 and PM 2.5 among African American, Hispanic American and White American residents of Detroit. Dr. Kannan is collaborating with the Healthy Eating Team in Genesee County, Flint, MI on the REACH 2010 Infant Mortality Initiative. The team is developing healthy eating, micronutrient and physical activity programs for preventing obesity and reducing infant mortality among African American women of reproductive age in Flint. Dr. Kannan is the Co-PI with Holly Noble from M-FIT on the March of Dimes funded research project "Great Expectation with Folic Acid".