This Week @ Gillings: The Abstract

December 5, 2022

Whether you’re local or global, student or alumni, the Abstract’s weekly news digest will help you stay in the loop with our amazing Gillings School community.

Gillings School and RTI International experts give insight on using accelerometry to measure physical activity and sedentary behavior

A new scoping review published by scientists at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and RTI International aims to shed light on how accelerometry is used in research to study physical activity and sedentary behavior in adults.

Through use of device-based motion sensors – called accelerometers – worn by a study participant, accelerometry can provide researchers with detailed movement information by capturing changes in a person’s gravitational acceleration in space. Technological advances have made them small enough to be included in cars, phones and other devices.

Dr. Kelly Evenson

Dr. Kelly Evenson

Researchers Kelly Evenson, PhD, Elissa Scherer, MPH, and Kennedy Peter from the Gillings School’s Department of Epidemiology, Carmen Cuthbertson, PhD, assistant professor at East Carolina University, and Stephanie Eckman, PhD, of RTI International, collaborated on the scoping review, which identified 155 studies that collected accelerometry data on adults.

The review identified common practices across these studies regarding how the data were collected, cleaned, and used. Evenson stated that, “the greater purpose of this review was to identify cohorts of adults with accelerometry measures of physical activity or sedentary behavior to help facilitate future global collaborations and harmonization across studies.”

The researchers have also made their findings available to the public through the UNC Dataverse.

Read the full study online.

Ng authors commentary on Healthy Helping research for Health Affairs

Dr. Shu Wen Ng

Dr. Shu Wen Ng

Shu Wen Ng, PhD, Distinguished Scholar in Public Health Nutrition, recently authored a commentary for “Health Affairs Today,” the newsletter of Health Affairs, on the effectiveness of food assistance programs like “Healthy Helping” on families experiencing food insecurity.

In a recent study published in Health Affairs, Ng and colleagues estimated differences in grocery purchase composition and expenditures among nearly 30,000 North Carolina SNAP enrollees who received a $40 per month fruit and vegetable incentive, Healthy Helping, after the COVID-19 pandemic started compared to SNAP participants who did not receive such an incentive.

“Using transaction data from a large supermarket chain, we found Healthy Helping enrollees had a $27 per month increase in and a doubling of purchases of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes. Enrollees also shifted the composition of food purchases in generally positive ways,” Ng wrote. “Program enrollees’ spending at the supermarket chain increased by more than the incentive amount ($57 per month), suggesting they shifted more of their shopping to the participating retail chain during the intervention.

“Together, our findings suggest that these types of healthy incentive programs can achieve double-duty action during a period of economic and health uncertainty by improving the nutritional profile of grocery purchases among a high-need population and by supporting local economic development,” she continued. “This adds to the literature to the success of the program. An earlier policy brief found the prevalence of food insecurity among Healthy Helping participants fell by 11 percentage points.”

Ng suggests that the results are part of a larger conversation on the need for a broad, multisectoral approach for sustained action on food insecurity in the United States.

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