Kathy Hosig’s tenacity for combating diabetes and serving her community has been garnering attention — so much, in fact, that she found herself hopping up and dancing in response to the opportunities she has received, overjoyed that her professional dreams are being realized.

An associate professor in the Department of Population Health Sciences, Hosig also serves as director of the Virginia Tech Center of Public Health Practice and Research (CPHPR) and Extension Public Health Specialist and State Program Leader for Health. Her efforts in the prevention of childhood obesity and Type 2 diabetes address education and collaboration, with a particular focus on underserved populations.

Collaborating with faculty from the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise (HNFE) and the Department of Food Science and Technology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and with Sophie Wenzel, CPHPR associate director, Hosig has worked to construct an outreach program to fight the growing health threat — particularly for the state’s rural communities, where residents suffer from the highest rates of chronic diseases associated with morbidity, mortality, and social and financial costs.

The group’s project, “Master Food Volunteer continuing education programs: A model for volunteer capacity,” led by Master of Public Health graduate and HNFE doctoral student Kristina Jiles, supports the expansion of Virginia Cooperative Extension’s (VCE) Master Food Volunteer program to serve the state’s Balanced Living with Diabetes (BLD) program. With this expansion, more volunteer training was needed.

In October 2018, Hosig was awarded a $2.5 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to promote evidence-based policies, systems, and environment strategies for obesity prevention in Petersburg, Virginia. Collaborators include VCE, Virginia State University, the Crater Health District, and the Petersburg City Library’s Healthy Living and Learning Center.

Thanks to the scholars’ development of the continuing education program, volunteers have access to more information about diabetes, the BLD curriculum, best practices for food demonstrations, and principles of food safety. Team members believe that their process can serve as a prototype for creating continuing education programs for volunteers while increasing program capacity, volunteer retention, and statewide impact.

Another focus of Hosig’s work with obesity and diabetes prevention is programming for youth. Piggybacking on a former National Institutes of Health grant for a community-based, Type 2 diabetes education program, Hosig was awarded a five-year $2.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to work with the same network of congregations from the Baptist General Convention of Virginia (BGCVA), which had requested programming to help their kids and grandkids prevent diabetes and heart disease.

The program also builds a research base to document the impact of VCE programs on public health issues facing local communities. Delivered in partnership with VCE and BGCVA, the nine-week program integrates goals of preventing and reducing childhood obesity through improved parenting practices and home environment. Over the course of the grant, Hosig expects at least 24 churches to participate, each with at least ten families with at least one child, age 6 through 11, taking part.

“Because we’re working with families and young children, our work has the potential to change the trajectory of what happens with those families and young kids, which will go on for generations,” Hosig said. “And we’re working with the churches at the same time to change their health environment, so future families who come through those churches also will be affected because we’re building their capacity, training them to work with the kids on their nutrition and physical activity. And that’s pretty huge.”

— Written by Leslie Jernegan M.F.A. ’19, a writer with VA-MD Vet Med