Are You Hungry?: Studying How African-American Mothers Respond to Children’s Hunger Signals

Children who are overweight or obese during early childhood are at an increased risk for maintaining an unhealthy weight as they age. Today, more than 10 percent of American infants and toddlers are obese. Yet, little is known about what contributes to obesity risk during the first two years of life.

Assistant Professor Eric Hodges is conducting a longitudinal study of

Assistant Professor Eric Hodges is investigating whether the way a mother responds to an infant or toddler's hunger or fullness signals affects the child's risk for childhood obesity.

45 African-American children and their mothers to determine if a mother’s response to her child’s hunger or fullness cues directly impacts the child’s ability to self-regulate food intake. He has funding from the University of North Carolina’s Clinical Nutrition Research Center and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Hodges is conducting a secondary analysis of videotapes from a recent study that followed African-American mothers and their infants from ages three months to 18 months, analyzing their feeding relationships. This previous study’s principal investigator, Margaret Bentley, a nutritionist from the School of Public Health, is collaborating with Hodges on his research. Hodges is analyzing data on feeding interactions at infant ages three months, six months, nine months, 12 months and 18 months.

Data collection will reveal how a mother reacts to signs that her child is hungry, such as increased sucking or mouthing, reaching for food or crying due to hunger. In addition, Hodges is observing how mothers respond to fullness signals, such as a slower eating pace, opening the mouth only when the spoon reaches the lips or turning away from food.

“We’re looking at the mother’s response to the signs that the child is either receptive to or disinterested in food,” Hodges said. “Ultimately, we want to begin to establish whether these feeding interactions have a direct impact on children’s ability to control how much food they eat and whether this sets children up for a risk of obesity.”

Hodges intends to target unproductive feeding patterns for prevention and early intervention to reduce the occurrence of childhood obesity. Data gathered could also identify characteristics of an infant-mother pair that may put infants at risk for obesity, such as a pairing of an infant with a difficult temperament and a depressed mother who struggles to respond appropriately to her child’s feeding cues.

Health Affairs Paper Grades Nurse-Pt. Safety a B-; SON Faculty Leading the Way for Improvement

On Dec. 1, 2009, the journal Health Affairs published a paper written by Robert M. Wachter, professor and associate chair of the department of medicine at the University of California-San Francisco that graded the healthcare industry’s progress toward goals enumerated in the 1999 Institute of Medicine reporter “To Err Is Human.”

Wachter gave the industry a B- overall. He also assigned a B- to progress made toward improving doctor-patient and nurse-patient safety. Although the paper references SBAR (Situation, Background, Assessment, Recommendation) nurse-physician communication strategies, it does not address the lastest research underway to improve quality and safety education for nurses.

Dean-emeritus Linda Cronenwett and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Gwen Sherwood are co-principal investigators on the Quality & Safety Education for Nurses (QSEN) grant funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. This program, which has received a total of $4.25 million in funding, is designed to prepare nurses who have the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to continuously improve the quality and safety of the healthcare systems within which they work, based on the six quality and safety competencies. The six competencies are patient-centered care, teamwork and collaboration, evidence-based practice, quality improvement, safety, and informatics.

Currently, 15 pilot schools have partnered with QSEN to develop and disseminate strategies and best practices for improving nursing education and patient safety.

QSEN will hold a 2010 National Forum, entitled “Climbing from Good to Great,” in Denver on June 2-4. The conference is designed to attract innovators and nurture faculty leaders for the improvement of quality and safety education through exposure to innovations in curricular design and teaching strategies, research related to quality and safety education, and quality improvement or safety studies.

QSEN is currently accepting abstracts. For more information, see the Conference Details page or contact QSEN at

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Selects Faculty Member As One of 15 Nurse Faculty Scholars

Eric Hodges, PhD, APRN, FNP-BC, an assistant professor at the School of Nursing at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, has won a competitive grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to conduct research on childhood obesity risks and how parental feeding patterns influence infant and child eating patterns later in life. Hodges is one of just 15 nurse educators from around the country to receive the three-year $350,000 “Nurse Faculty Scholar” award this year. It is given to junior faculty who

Assistant professor Eric Hodges was selected as one of 15 Nurse Faculty Scholars nationally by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Assistant professor Eric Hodges was selected as one of 15 Nurse Faculty Scholars nationally by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

show outstanding promise as future leaders in academic nursing. The grant period begins this month.

“The generous support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will enable me to help provide a window into childhood obesity, and whether there are preventative measures we can take early on to keep children healthy,” Hodges said.

For his research, Hodges will expand upon a previous study of first time mothers examining maternal feeding patterns. He will reconnect with participants in the initial study and through a combination of home visits and data collection, examine what, if any, patterns emerge between childhood obesity and early feeding habits. Hodges will focus on environmental and social factors that may contribute to obesity. Study participants are primarily located in the Durham and Orange County region.

“Nursing is ideally situated for childhood obesity prevention. Primary care and public health nurses are at the front lines, and combined with well child visits, we could really make an impact on reducing obesity risk,” said Hodges. “Finding out what part of obesity could be modifiable, and what particular patterns in infancy and toddlerhood might set children up for obesity, would allow us to prevent illness and apply early interventions.”

Margaret S. Miles, RN, PhD, Professor at UNC Chapel Hill School of Nursing, and Margaret E. Bentley, PhD, Associate Dean and Professor at the Department of Nutrition at UNC Chapel Hill, will serve as his mentors.

“Hodges’ research on early feeding patterns and childhood obesity presents an opportunity to apply preventative measures in an epidemic that is quickly spiraling out of control in this country,” Dr. Miles said. “His work will contribute a great deal to this area of concern for so many parents and families.”

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s “Nurse Faculty Scholar” award aims to strengthen the academic productivity and overall excellence of nursing schools by developing the next generation of national leaders in academic nursing.

Supporting junior nurse faculty will help curb a severe shortage of nurse educators that threatens to undermine the health and health care of all Americans. Many nursing schools lack the resources needed to hire and support enough faculty to train the next generation of nurses. As a result, nursing schools are turning away thousands of qualified applicants—rejecting the very people who can help reverse a serious looming nurse shortage. As the supply of nurses shrinks and the demand for their services grows, patient care will suffer.

The Foundation’s “Nurse Faculty Scholars” program aims to curb the effects of the nursing shortage by helping more junior faculty succeed in, and commit to, academic careers. The program provides talented junior faculty with salary and research support, as well as the chance to participate in institutional and national mentoring activities, leadership training, and networking events with colleagues in nursing and other fields, while continuing to teach and provide institutional, professional and community service in their universities.

The program will also enhance the stature of the scholars’ academic institutions, which will benefit fellow nurse educators seeking professional development opportunities.

To receive the award, scholars must be registered nurses who have completed a research doctorate in nursing or a related discipline and who have held a tenure-eligible faculty position at an accredited nursing school for at least two and no more than five years.

The program is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and administered through the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. It is directed by Jacquelyn Campbell, PhD, RN, FAAN, who is the Anna D. Wolf chair and professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing.

To learn more about the program, visit


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 96 other followers

%d bloggers like this: