Dwayne Proctor, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

TITLE: Director

FUNDING AREAS: Childhood obesity, urban populations, research

CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)

IP TAKE: Proctor is a devout believer in the translation of thought to change, with a primary specialization in childhood obesity of minority populations in urban locales.

PROFILE: Dwayne Proctor heads the national Healthy Weight for All Children directive at the Robert Johnson Wood Foundation (RWJF). The initiative targets youth from ages 3 to 18 and favors prevention and awareness over treatment. The Healthy Weight for All Children program promotes exercise, good nutritional habits, and other standard fare by method of policy and advocacy. In terms of demographics, it focuses on "reaching children at greatest risk—African American, Hispanic, Native American, and Asian/Pacific Islander[s]" living in low-income, urban areas.

Like most of RWJF's divisions, Proctor's program gives funds nationwide, although it is weighted somewhat toward the urbanized portions of the northeast. Proctor himself works out of Princeton, New Jersey, as does RWJF.

Proctor received his PhD in communication science from University of Connecticut, and worked for some years as an assistant professor in their school of medicine. He also developed a world perspective when he was selected as a Fulbright Fellow and spent time in Senegal, West Africa, charged with investigating the effectiveness of HIV/AIDS risk messages in raising awareness of AIDS as a national health problem.

Proctor then left academia, investing time with various public health programs like "Nurse-Family Partnership, Free to Grow, Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol-Free, and National Campaign to Prevent Teenage Pregnancy," and wound up at RJWF in 2002.

The African American Collaborative Obesity Research Network (AACORN), a program based out of the University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine, received $3.5 million from RWJF in 2007. AACORN seeks to "enhance the visibility and integration of the perspectives of African American investigators within the larger obesity research arena and especially in relation to research in African American populations."

Proctor has renewed its support of AACORN with a $650,000 grant for a research project looking into how food producers price and market food to African Americans. RWJF says the money will produce "two reports, five research briefs, five journal submissions, and timely briefings of policy advocates." This work seeks to clarify the connection between food-pricing, consumption and obesity in the urban African American community and explore potential venues, both legal and political, to keep retailers from discounting the prices of unhealthy food. Additionally, the project will investigate the potential "efficacy of youth-led countermarketing through social media" to combat the rhetoric of junk food.

Proctor also recently gave $80,000 to the use of EpiSurveyor (now known as MagPi), a tool for mobile data collection to fight childhood obesity in poor urban areas. Michelle Rogers of Drexel University's College of Information Science and Technology received the money to help "researchers studying behavior change to collect patient data in a manner that is convenient, valid and reliable," according to a Drexel press release.

Proctor remains optimistic about the potential of research "to shape the strategies and policies that will help us solve our nation's most threatening health problems." He writes in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine:

Childhood obesity certainly falls into that category, and researchers have taken note, using their knowledge and skills to explore the role that both physical activity and healthy eating can play in turning back the epidemic. But as we interpret data to inform policy, let us also remember the incredible toll that physical inactivity, unhealthy eating, and obesity take on so many people's daily lives.

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