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University of Wisconsin-Madison

Vivian is recipient of Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment Grant

headshot of Eva Vivian Pharmacy Practice Division
Eva Vivian, Pharmacy Practice and Translational Research Division

The health of African American (AA) women is the focus of Peers Empowering Peers (PEP) a new program created by Eva Vivian, professor (CHS) in the Pharmacy Practice Division, and recent recipient of an Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment grant.

Vivian’s proposal outlined that four of out of five AA women are overweight or obese, the highest obesity rate of any population in the United States. Further, AA women are also more likely to have overweight or obese children when compared to white women. African American children ages 6-17 years have the highest rates of obesity, placing them at risk for developing diabetes, heart disease, and other obesity related complications before adulthood.

The goal of PEP is to incorporate peer influence from community members to enhance learning of positive health behaviors for individuals and their families. Peer support provides a great framework for creating a healthy living intervention because people who live in the same community and share similar experiences are uniquely poised to address issues related to behavioral change which involve problem-solving and goal-setting skills. These social interventions will help African American families develop strategies to lead a healthy lifestyle.

A group of African American mothers will participate in an educational training program to become peer health promoters. The six month program is based on a Center for Disease Control (CDC) approved curriculum designed for African Americans called Power to Prevent: A Family Lifestyle Approach to Diabetes Prevention and will be taught by a certified diabetes educator.

The training program is the first step toward the future implementation of PEP, where the newly trained peer health promoters will lead Power to Prevent sessions and activities at local churches and neighborhood centers within their own community to assist and support one another in making and sustaining healthy lifestyle behaviors.

The PEP project connects to the Healthiest Wisconsin 2020—the statewide community health improvement plan with a mission to assure conditions in which people can be healthy, and members of healthy, safe, and resilient families and communities. The promotion of healthy nutritional habits, physical activity, strong social, and community ties among residents enhances social capital that can potentially change the built environment.

The Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment is a unique gift to the University of Wisconsin-Madison that is designed to involve faculty, staff, and students, and to honor the Baldwins’ pioneering leadership in extending the talent, knowledge, and resources of the campus to the people of the state, the nation, and the world. The competitive grant program was open to University of Wisconsin–Madison faculty, staff and students and designed to foster public engagement and advance the Wisconsin Idea. Vivian’s project will be funded for July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018.