Dr. Smith's research focuses on identifying methods to noninvasively stage chronic liver disease in lean and obese patients. Chronic liver disease is clinically silent and can progress to irreversible cirrhosis which can in turn lead to liver cancer, liver failure and death. Chronic liver disease is more common, more severe, and more difficult to stage in obese patients. Treatment is based on the cause and stage of disease, and the reference standard for staging chronic liver disease is liver biopsy, though problems with the procedure include the invasive approach, sampling errors, subjectivity in pathologic staging, and complications such as pain, bleeding, infection and rarely death.
Dr. Smith is conducting a comparative effectiveness study whereby his team will prospectively compare the accuracy and technical success rate of several different noninvasive imaging techniques that can be used to stage chronic liver disease including: ultrasound elastography, magnetic resonance elastograpy, and a computed tomography (CT) liver surface nodularity score. He hypothesizes that the CT liver surface nodularity score will have similar accuracy but a high technical success rate than competing noninvasive imaging techniques, especially in obese patients.
Pregnancy, infancy, and early childhood are critical developmental periods for intervention to prevent obesity and Type II Diabetes. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is a long-standing federal program that is ideally suited to stem the tide of early pediatric obesity among low-income populations through the provision of ancillary healthy foods, healthcare referrals, and nutritional education and counseling. Participation in WIC may offer a unique and timely opportunity to augment nutritional counseling with the promotion of exercise; a collective, energy-balanced approach that is likely to promote healthy gestational weight gain and postpartum weight loss, particularly for the 220,000 adolescent WIC mothers in the United States. Formative research to support obesity prevention interventions delivered through existing public health service programs that low-income pregnant and postpartum adolescents, such as WIC, is paramount. Thus, the goal of this two-year exploratory study is to identify modifiable psychosocial, cultural, and environmental factors related to exercise behavior in pregnant and postpartum adolescent (≤19 years) WIC participants in Mississippi. We aim to: (1) utilize qualitative (parent/guardian focus groups; WIC staff interviews; adolescent small group interviews; adolescent photovoice projects) and quantitative (adolescent-parent/guardian dyad surveys) methods to explore multi-level predisposing, enabling, and reinforcing psychosocial, environmental, and cultural determinants of exercise behavior during pregnancy and postpartum periods, and in the transitional phase from pregnancy to postpartum; and (2) objectively assess rural environmental supports for exercise using the Rural Active Living Assessment (RALA) tools and the Physical Activity Resource Assessment (PARA) tool.
The outcomes of this investigation will bolster a K01 proposal (PAR-16-211) to develop and test the effectiveness, feasibility, and acceptability of a theory-based, multimodal digital exercise intervention rural, low-income pregnant and postpartum adolescents in Mississippi using an effectiveness-implementation research design. This is an important and understudied line of behavioral intervention research to prevent pediatric obesity during critical developmental periods from pregnancy through adolescence.
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