Caree J. Cotwright, MS, PhD, RDN

College of Family and Consumer Sciences

Foods and Nutrition

Assistant Professor

Address:
100B Barrow Hall
115 DW Brooks Dr.
Athens, GA 30602

E-Mail:

workOffice Phone: 706-542-3073

Curriculum Vitae

Current Classes

FDNS 4660S (Fall and Spring)

FDNS 6660E (Fall)

Education

Degree Field of Study Institution Graduation
PhD Nutrition-Community Nutrition University of Georgia 2008
MS Nutrition University of Georgia 2004
Dietetic Internship Nutrition University of Georgia 2004
BS Biology Howard University 1999

Research

Childhood Obesity Prevention in schools and child care settings, Early Childhood Obesity Prevention Policy, Theater Based Nutrition Intervention

My research agenda focuses on promoting wellness best practices and policies in the ECE setting. The aim of my work is to: 1) assess current wellness practices in the ECE setting; 2) create training and interventions for child care providers and child care food service staff to increase healthy eating, wellness education, and physical activity in the ECE setting; and 3) assist ECE settings with creating wellness policies and plans of action to sustain changes long term. The overall goal of my work is to create healthy ECE environments to prevent obesity in our youngest children ages (0-5), while working to decrease health disparities among low-income and minority populations. For more information, visit the Childhood Obesity/Nutrition Intervention Laboratory.

Current Research

Georgia Child Care Wellness Study: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Healthy Eating Research Round 10

Childhood obesity increases risk for the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and in adulthood. Children develop healthy habits early in life, making early intervention extremely important. Sixty percent of American children are in some form of child care each week. As the ECE setting is particularly suited to advance obesity prevention efforts for young children, improving policy and best practice implementation to reduce rates of childhood obesity is a high priority. Increasing access to water and other healthy beverages and reducing consumption of SSBs are viable strategies to prevent childhood obesity. Nationally, low income, minority children aged 2-5 have the highest consumption of SSBs. In Georgia (GA), 13% of low-income children are obese. In 2014, GA added beverage provisions to child care licensing regulations, however, no known studies have examined policy compliance.

The primary goal of this study is to assess the current status of beverage policy implementation in child care programs in GA based on participation in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and program type. The specific aims of the project are to: 1) Assess implementation of wellness practices and policies in child care programs participating in Georgia via a statewide survey; 2) Determine barriers to and facilitators of the adoption of wellness practices policies in ECE programs; and 3) Use findings to assist Georgia ECE stake holders in developing training to improve wellness policy implementation.

Study Findings:

Bee Smart, Eat Smart

Less than 10% of children in the United States consume the recommended 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Consumption rates are even lower among children in Georgia who consume only 1 serving of fruit and vegetables per day. Low intake of fruits and vegetables increases children’s risk for obesity and many chronic diseases.Teaching children about gardening and cooking is a promising strategy to improve knowledge and attitudes about fruits and vegetables.  Studies show increased knowledge of gardening and involvement in cooking is correlated with increased the willingness to try fruits and vegetables as well as the consumption of fruits and vegetables among youth. Bee pollination is critical for the growth of many fruits and vegetables. However, limited studies have investigated using the role of pollination to promote fruits and vegetables to youth.

The goal of this study is to assess the feasibility of using a garden curriculum to promote pollinated fruits and vegetables to youth ages 6-11. Researchers hypothesize that participating children will have increased knowledge of, improved willingness to try, and improved attitudes about eating fruit and vegetables. The research study will use two approaches to assess the effectiveness of the program: 1) A 1-week experiential garden curriculum, "Bee Smart, Eat Smart", Summer Camp at the State Botanical Garden; 2) A parent-child cooking class based on the Bee Smart, Eat Smart  at the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia teaching kitchen in Clayton, GA. Both approaches show promising results.

Bee Smart, Eat Smart is a partnership with the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia, and the UGA Department of Foods and Nutrition.

Healthy Child Care Georgia

Healthy Child Care Georgia (HCCG) is a research study supported by the USDA SNAP-Ed Program. HCCG uses policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) approaches combined with direct classroom education for obesity prevention in the child care setting.  While PSE approaches have delivered promising results in the child care setting, limited studies have combined both PSE approaches and with direct classroom education to promote change for obesity prevention.  The HCCG study has four specific aims:  1) Increase ECE providers’ knowledge of wellness best practices for obesity prevention in early childhood; 2) Assess current status of wellness best practice implementation of ECE programs; 3) Create an action plan for the adoption at least one new wellness best practice in ECE program; and 4) Implement a six week intervention, Eat Healthy Be Active, to increase the quality and quantity of nutrition and physical activity education for children in ECE programs. Implementation of these policies and best practices in each ECE program has the potential to affect hundreds of SNAP-Ed eligible parents and their children.

Results from our formative work showed improvements in the implementation of nutrition and physical activity policies for participating child care programs as well as increased teacher knowledge and confidence and increased nutrition education in child care classrooms.  The combined approached proved to be feasible and was well received by participants.  Researchers are currently implementing HCCG with Head Start and Pre-Kindergarten classrooms in Athens-Clarke County, GA.

Freggie’s Green Machine

Young children have low fruit and vegetable intakes and are not meeting national recommendations for daily physical activity.  Increasing fruit and vegetable consumption is a viable strategy to prevent chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and stroke.  One way to encourage higher intakes of fruits and vegetables among young children is via entertainment education.  Entertainment education is the intentional placement of educational messages in an entertainment format (i.e. songs, puppet shows, games).  Limited research has examined the use of entertainment education to increase fruit and vegetable consumption among preschool children. Even fewer studies have focused on using entertainment education to teach health messages to low-income children preschool children.  Freggie's Green Machine is a nutrition education intervention for preschool children.  The overall goal of this study is to assess the effectiveness of using an entertainment education nutrition intervention to improve fruit and vegetables consumption among low income preschool children. Researchers have implemented Freggie's Green Machine with Head Start centers in Walton County and Madison County, GA.

Teaching

Food and Nutrition Education Methods (on campus and E course)

Previously Taught:

First Year Odyssey Seminar (FYOS 1001), Chopped: Nutrition Education and Cookin Demonstrations to Improve Health

Outreach

Mobile School Food Pantry Cooking Demonstrations and Nutrition Education with the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia 

School Lunch Challenge

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) class Chopped: Cooking for Health and Wellness

Aw Shucks Day Celebration 

UGA Service Learning Fellow 2014- 2015: Early Childhood Obesity Prevention Service Learning Project conducted and awarded $2500

Areas of Expertise

  • Early Childhood Obesity Prevention
  • Entertainment Education
  • Health Disparities
  • Training and Technical Assistance
  • Nutrition & Public Health Policy
  • Culturally Appropriate Intervention Design
  • Community Based Participatory Research
  • Curriculum Development & Instruction
     

Prior Professional Positions

Organization / Department Title Years of Service
Dr. Cotwright previously worked as an ORISE Research Fellow at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. During this time she was engaged in the dissemination of national policy and environmental change approaches for obesity prevention in the early care and education setting. In this capacity she also worked specifically on promoting, First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Child Care initiative for child care providers. CDC Research Fellow 2010-2013
Kellogg Health Scholars Postdoctoral Program, Community Based Participatory Research, Morgan State University School of Community Health and Policy, Baltimore, MD Postdoctoral Fellow 2008-2010

Awards

Award Name Awarded By Year Awarded
Chris Todd Outstanding Outreach Award UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences 2018
FACS 100 Honoree UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences 2017
Feature Cover Article for FACS Magazine on Scholarship, Research and Outreach UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences 2017
Georgia Trend Magazine 40 Under 40 Honoree Georgia Trend Magazine 2016
WIlliam Dietz Nutrition Award Nominee CDC 2015
Diverse Magazine Emerging Scholars Award Nominee Diverse Issues in Higher Education 2014
UGA Alumni 40 Under 40 Award UGA Alumni Association 2012
FACS Pacesetter Award UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences 2012
Top 25 Women of Atlanta Award Recipient Rolling Out Magazine 2011
New Connections Symposium Selected Attendee Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 2009

Journal Articles

Government Publications

  • Centers for Disease Control Prevention. (2014). Increasing Access to Drinking Water and Other Healthier Beverages in Early Care and Education Settings. Atlanta, GA:  US Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Addressing Childhood Obesity in the Early Care and Education Setting: A Guide for Action. (2013-Task Order 200-2007-20009/003). Atlanta, Georgia.
  • United States Department of Agriculture. (2013). Nutrition and Wellness Tips for Young Children: Provider Handbook for the Child and Adult Care Food Program: Screen Time. Washington, DC.
  • Centers for Disease Control Prevention. (2010-2013). (Primary Author: Jackson, CJ.) Early Care and Education News Blast, Monthly Newsletter. Atlanta, Georgia.

Scholarly Publications

  • Cotwright, CJ, Bradley, H., Celestin, N., Love, K., Birch, L. (2018). Policy and Practice in ECE: A Statewide Examination of Beverage Policy Implementation Among Child Care Programs in Georgia. Childhood Obesity, 15(3), 185-193.
  • Cotwright, CJ, Bales, D. W., Lee, J. S., Parrott, K., Celestin, N., & Olubajo, B. (2017). Like Peas and Carrots: Combining Wellness Policy Implementation With Classroom Education for Obesity Prevention in the Childcare Setting. Public Health Reports, 132, 74S-80S. 
  • Barr-Anderson, DJ, Singleton, C, Cotwright, CJ, Floyd, MF, Affuso, O. Outside-of-School Time Obesity Prevention and Treatment Interventions in African American Youth. Obesity Reviews. 15 S4 (2014): 26-45.
  • Reynolds, M, Cotwright, CJ, Polhamus, B, Chang, D, Gertel-Rosenberg, AS. Obesity Prevention in the Early Care and Education Setting: Successful Initiatives Across a Spectrum of Opportunities. Journal of Law Medicine & Ethics Supplement. 41.4 (2013): 8-18.
  • Jackson, CJ, Mullis, RM, and Hughes, M. Development of a Theater-Based Nutrition and Physical Activity Intervention for Low-Income, Urban, African American Adolescents. Progress in Community Health Partnerships: Research, Education, and Action 4.2 (2010): 89-98.
  • Caree Jackson and Chandra Jackson. "Podcast Interview Transcript." Progress in Community Health Partnerships: Research, Education, and Action 4.2 (2010): 99-104.

Publications Under Review

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Working Manuscripts

Service

Organization Title Year(s) Service Type
National Farm to School Network Advisory Board Board Member 2018-Present
Food Bank of Northeast Georgia Board of Directors Board Member 2018-Present
United States Department of Agriculture Grant Review Panel Member 2017
University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Department for Food Science and Human Nutrition External Advisory Board Member 2016-Present
Yancey and Edgley Fellowship for Health Promotion Advisory Board Member 2016-Present
Southern Obesity Summit Planning Committee Member 2016-2017
UGA Office of the Vice President for Instruction Faculty Advisory Board Member 2016-Present
Department of Foods and Nutrition Alumni Relations Committee Chair 2016-Present
Easter Seals North Georgia Policy Council Member 2015-Present
Georgia Regents University/UGA Medical Scholars Program Research Mentor 2016
Georgia SHAPE Initiative Evaluation Team Member 2014-Present
Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities (CURO) Research Mentor 2014-Present
Fighting Against Youth Obesity Student Organization Faculty Advisor 2014-Present
UGA Service-Learning Fellow Fellow 2013-2014
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Healthy Eating Research ECE Research to Practice Workgroup Member 2013-Present
University of Georgia Obesity Initiative Maternal and Child Health and Community Health Team Member 2013-Present
CDC DNPAO Obesity Prevention Branch Community Service Coordinator 2012-2013
Healthy Lifestyles Healthy Kids Team Registered Dietitian 2010-Present
Healthy Kids, Healthy Future National Steering Commitee Member 2010-2013
First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! Child Care Initiative Workgroup 2010-2013
UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences Alumni Board Member 2005-2008; 2012-2013

Professional Affiliations

  • Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
  • American Public Health Association
  • Society for Nutrition Education
  • Council on Black Health
  • International Society of Technology in Education
  • National Association for the Education of Young Children
  • UGA William A. and Barbara R. Owens Institure for Behavioral Research

Speaking Engagements

  • Celebrating Excellence Luncheon Speaker
  • Georgia Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences Annual State Conference 2017 Keynote Speaker
  • TEDxUGA Illuminate 2016 Featured Speaker: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Vmate4O-HQ
  • Food Waste and Hunger 2015 Summit Featured Speaker
  • Whatever it Takes Afterschool Mentoring Progran Spring 2015 Banquet Speaker
  • UGA Dinner with a Dozen Dawgs 2013 Alumni Speaker

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