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Rebecca Krukowski, PhD, Assistant Professor at UTHSC, Awarded $3.3 Million Grant for ‘Moms Fit 2 Fight’ Study to Help Women in Military Return to Fitness Standards After Pregnancy

Among members of the UTHSC Moms Fit 2 Fight research team are: In front, polka dot dress, Dr. Rebecca Krukowski, principal investigator, and Dr. Wayne Talcott, director of military research and co-investigator. In back, from left, Leslie Gladney, study coordinator; Hannah Porter, student research assistant; Karen Leroy, research director; Annette Martinez, study coordinator; Allen Jones, research specialist-interventionist; Dr. Melissa Little, co-investigator.

Rebecca Krukowski, PhD, of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) has received a grant for $3.3 million over five years for a program to help women in the United States military return to fitness standards after the birth of a baby. This project is the result of a cooperative agreement between UTHSC and the United States Air Force.

Dr. Krukowski, who is an assistant professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine in the College of Medicine at UTHSC, said 34 percent of women in the military are overweight, and six percent are obese. Like civilian women, many gain more than the Institute of Medicine’s recommended amount of weight during pregnancy, she said, and have trouble losing weight later.

She is working with Gerald Wayne Talcott, PhD, ABPP, along with many other collaborators. Dr. Talcott, a retired colonel in the U.S. Air Force who lives in San Antonio, Texas, is a professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine and director of Medical Research in the Center for Population Sciences at UTHSC. Dr. Talcott said weight management concerns in the military are a reflection of broader trends in society. The other collaborators include several UTHSC faculty members (Zoran Bursac, PhD; Marion Hare, MD; Bob Klesges, PhD; Melissa Little, PhD; and Teresa Waters, PhD), as well as two military obstetricians (Deirdre McCullough, MD, and Katherine Dengler, MD), and Jean Harvey, PhD, RD, at the University of Vermont.

The study, called Moms Fit 2 Fight, will seek 450 participants at two locations in San Antonio — Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, a U.S. Air Force medical treatment facility on the grounds of Lackland Air Force Base, and the San Antonio Military Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston.

Participants will be divided into three groups, Dr. Krukowski said. One third will be assigned randomly to a gestational weight gain intervention, which will occur during pregnancy. “We’ll have all sorts of tools available to them to help them gain a healthy amount of weight, including regular intervention phone calls with trained counselors and regular self-weighing,” Dr. Krukowski said. “There are Institute of Medicine guidelines that provide specific recommendations based on the pre-pregnancy baseline. For a normal woman, it’s 25 to 35 pounds; for an overweight woman, it’s 15 to 25 pounds; and for an obese woman, it’s 11-20 pounds. The tools are designed to help them to stay within a healthy range.”

A second group will focus on postpartum weight loss, using similar tools to those used with the gestational weight gain intervention. A third group will get both of those interventions. “So the really exciting thing about this study, both for us and for these woman, is that everyone is going to get something that we think is going to be really great,” Dr. Krukowski said.

“We’re specifically focused on this population because, in addition to all of the stressors that pregnant and postpartum women have with child care and all the medical appointments and breastfeeding, they also have to get back within their fitness standards postpartum pretty quickly. (How quickly depends on the branch of the military.) Those fitness standards are important because their fitness test is part of their annual review, and if they don’t do well, it can impact career advancement and ultimately mean loss of employment.  Our hope is that these interventions will provided the needed support to help these military women get back within their fitness standards. If this program proves to be successful, it might serve as the beginning of other programs like it for all military women down the road.”