Our scholars’ stories: Myers explores a weight loss intervention at the intersection of food insecurity and excess body weight in women

Our scholars’ stories: Myers explores a weight loss intervention at the intersection of food insecurity and excess body weight in women

Candice A. Myers, Ph.D., M.S., assistant professor of Population and Public Health Sciences at Pennington Biomedical Research Center at LSU and director of the Social Determinants and Health Disparities Laboratory, is pioneering a project aimed to help women who experience both food insecurity and excess body weight.

Her project, TARGETing Health Weight Loss in the Context of Food Insecurity Pilot and Feasibility Trial II, will test a weight loss intervention for women with excess body weight who are experiencing food insecurity. Food insecurity, or the lack of sufficient food in both quality and quantity for an active and healthy life, is a pressing health issue in the United States, with over 18% of adults being food insecure.

“Food insecurity is a risk factor for multiple chronic diseases, including obesity,” says Myers.

“Importantly, both food insecurity and excess body weight are significantly linked in women. Research efforts are needed to address and mitigate this health disparity.”

Myers’ “Why”

Myers says that as a sociologist, she has actively pursued an academic health researcher career by seeking a deeper understanding of the “concomitant influence” of sociological and biological mechanisms that shape disparate health outcomes.

“A key theme that underlies my entire research career to date is an explicit focus on disparities, socioeconomic disparities during my graduate training, and health disparities during my postdoctoral training.”

For Myers, postdoctoral training provided an opportunity to research obesity, where she discovered food insecurity as a pressing health issue, particularly about obesity.

“Calling upon my graduate work in both food stamp program participation and poverty, I focus on food insecurity as a risk factor for poor health and source of health disparities.”

A better future for women experiencing food insecurity

Myers’ project will provide novel data on a weight loss intervention tailored for women who face the dual burden of food insecurity and body weight, which impacts their overall health and quality of life.

The TARGET intervention is being developed using data from a sample of key stakeholders from the local Baton Rouge community: women who experience both food insecurity and obesity. In focus groups, they will offer information on their wants and needs for weight loss.

The goal of the current pilot study is to test the TARGET intervention. This study will enroll 15 food-insecure women (ages 18-65) with obesity, where all participants receive the tailored weight loss intervention. The 12-week intervention includes weekly individual intervention sessions. The primary outcome will be a change in body weight across 12 weeks.

Participants will receive scales in-home to obtain weekly body weight in tandem with weekly intervention sessions. Secondary outcomes will be assessed using validated questionnaires.

Researchers, public health officials, and local community members will also benefit from this preliminary work by laying the groundwork for future studies.

This study has significant public health implications by addressing psychological mechanisms that can be targeted to mitigate the adverse relationship between food insecurity and obesity and reduce health disparities in vulnerable populations.