College of Nursing
For more than 25 years, Mildred Horodynski has directed her research towards reducing the risk of childhood obesity. Because the first years of a child’s life are a critical period for reducing this risk, her work has focused on promoting healthy eating behaviors through the development of effective community-based parent and nutrition education programs for low-income, diverse populations.
Dr. Horodynski and her colleagues have developed and implemented innovative, evidence-based, multi-faceted curricula that empower parents to utilize appropriate nutritional guidelines and feeding practices. These include Nutrition Education Aimed at Toddlers, Healthy Toddlers, The Infant Feeding Series, Healthy Babies, Growing Healthy, Tools for Teen Moms, and Simply Dinner. These interventions address such issues as knowing when a baby is developmentally ready to have solid foods introduced into the diet and appropriate portion sizes for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.
Horodynski is a University Outreach and Engagement Senior Fellow. Community partnerships are key to her work. She teams up with Extension educators at MSU and other universities to connect with local human service agencies, such as Early Head Start and Head Start, collaborating in the implementation of curricula. In addition, young parents who participate in the programs provide valuable feedback about how well it meets their needs.
Dr. Horodynski’s research builds on learner strengths and community diversity. This asset-based orientation also helps to build trust. Other key success factors include ongoing process evaluation and using existing community networks rather than trying to invent new ones. A few small changes can, over time, have a tremendous impact on community health and childhood obesity.