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Cherokee Nation Study Seeks to Keep Expectant Moms, Babies Healthier

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The Cherokee Nation is studying expectant mothers to test whether healthy diet and exercise can prevent excessive weight gain and ultimately lower obesity rates within the tribe.

Cherokee Nation’s Just Right Study aims to prevent mothers and their Cherokee babies from gaining an unhealthy amount of weight during pregnancy. The multiyear study is being conducted jointly with the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

The study will enroll about 80 pregnant women total and currently has 73 participating.

“National data shows that obesity is a major health problem in the U.S. population, and it has been particularly devastating for Native Americans. Obesity has also been linked to diabetes, heart disease, cancer and a number of other ailments, which is why the Cherokee Nation has been aggressively pursuing all available options to curb the obesity epidemic in our population,” said Dr. Sohail Khan, director of Cherokee Nation Health Research. “If the outcome of this pilot project is favorable, we plan to pursue a much bigger, multiyear grant and offer similar services to all expectant Cherokee mothers.”

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Study participants are divided into intervention and control groups. Those in the intervention group are offered frequent healthy cooking and exercise classes. Mothers’ weight, blood pressure, glucose and exercise regimens are recorded monthly. After delivery of the child, the baby’s gender and weight and any complications during pregnancy and labor are also recorded. Findings from the study will be available in the fall of 2015.

Study participant Pam Jones, of Tahlequah, said the classes helped her gain an appropriate amount of weight during pregnancy and give birth to a healthy 7-pound baby girl this past August.

“It’s a wonderful program and so beneficial for all of us who participated,” Jones said. “I learned a lot and still use many of the recipes from the classes, even with two picky 5-year-olds.”

As part of the incentive to join, prizes and gift cards are offered to study participants. Jones was able to buy a stroller and car seat by saving gift cards she received for attending the classes.

Cooking classes are held the last Thursday evening of each month. To join, participants must be between the ages of 18 and 35 and plan to deliver the baby at W.W. Hastings Hospital. For more information, contact study coordinator Jaime Clark at 918-772-4089 or