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Innovative Approaches to Children's Health
CHORI Welcomes New Clinical Scientist

"We want to look at creative solutions to make a positive difference in the obesity epidemic, and no one trick alone is going to do it."

CHORI’s latest addition to its multidisciplinary research team is June Tester, MD, MPH, who will be joining the Center for the Prevention of Obesity, Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes. A pediatric clinician under the hospital’s cardiology group, Dr. Tester co-directs the Healthy Hearts clinic, teaches in the Joint Medical Program at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, and now calls CHORI her research home as well.

Currently funded with two grants through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Dr. Tester's brings a new element to CHORI's research in her focus on the relationship between the built environment and children's health.

"What this basically translates to is the idea that our neighborhoods, our playgrounds, the traffic in our streets - our physical environment - impacts children's health," says Dr. Tester.

Dr. Tester's first grant is funded to investigate the role of street vendors in after school snacking.

"We've been doing observations of the blocks around Oakland schools and evaluating the transactions at those vendors," explains Dr. Tester, who arranged with an ice cream driver to sell a healthy menu along side his regular menu to see if healthy foods could be accessible in that format.

"The question is whether or not mobile vending could be turned upside down to be a way to increase access to healthy foods," Dr. Tester says.

The second study focuses on two playgrounds that will be redesigned in Richmond by a grassroots organization, and it is geared at understanding the impact of these changes on physical activity as well as overall "health" of the neighborhood.

"This summer, these playlots will basically be reinvented, such that they provide supervisors and enriching activities, and are locked, defendable spaces," Dr. Tester says.

"Both of these communities have histories of violence, they've had a lot of disinvestment, and we want to know how all the work that is going into re-imagining these communities is going to affect physical activity, social cohesion and crime."

As part of the grant, Dr. Tester will be measuring physical activity on the playgrounds before and after the renovations, conducting household surveys, and tracking crime incidents in the communities surrounding the two parks.

"My overall goal is to do policy-relevant work that informs decision-makers about what community-level solutions make children's lives even healthier," says Dr. Tester.

Dr. Tester will not stray far from these innovative research themes in the future, focusing on clinical research topics for the Healthy Hearts clinic that will help patients be more physically active and make better food choices. She is currently working with a team of researchers at UC Berkeley which includes engineers who are developing better devices to objectively measure physical activity in children.

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