Start Early. Start well.

January 23, 2017

UNMC, Buffett Institute Announce First Recipient of Community Chair in Activity, Nutrition, and Obesity Prevention

Omaha, Neb.—The University of Nebraska Medical Center and the Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska have announced the joint appointment of David Dzewaltowski as the inaugural recipient of the Community Chair in Activity, Nutrition, and Obesity Prevention. 

Dzewaltowski, who has spent 30 years at Kansas State University in community health, kinesiology, and physical fitness, will contribute to research and programmatic efforts on childhood obesity, work to address healthy eating and nutrition, and reverse the trend of childhood obesity in Nebraska and the U.S. 

The position is the second of four community chairs across the University of Nebraska system to be established by the Buffett Institute. Annual stipends are awarded to the chair recipients for salary and research support and are made possible by permanently endowed funds established by donors at the University of Nebraska Foundation.

Dzewaltowski’s position is a partnership with the Department of Health Promotion, Social and Behavioral Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s College of Public Health, the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition, the university-wide Food for Health Initiative, and the Buffett Institute. He began work on Jan 3.

Paul Estabrooks, chair of the Department of Health Promotion, Social and Behavioral Health, highlighted the uniqueness of the community chair position. 

“The community chair position was designed to get exceptional leaders who are experienced in engaging communities in work that is practical, relevant, and improves health—especially for communities in Nebraska that need the support most,” Estabrooks said.

“Health and nutrition during the earliest years of life are vitally important to children’s long-term development,” said Samuel Meisels, founding executive director of the Buffett Institute. “Strategic early childhood investments in this area can have a tremendous return for both children and our communities for years to come.” 

A public health social and behavioral scientist, Dzewaltowski has contributed to the development of health behavior theory and evidence-based community interventions promoting physical activity and healthful eating in child care settings, schools, after-school programs, and diverse community organizations. 

His work has demonstrated that interventions can build the capacity of adults and children to live healthier lives. His projects have been funded by more than $13 million from several health foundations, the National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and resulted in more than 100 scholarly papers and book chapters.

Dzewaltowski received his bachelor’s degree from Western Washington University, his master’s from West Virginia University, and his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa.

"Much of my work has been about helping communities provide opportunities for children to have healthy and productive lives. The community chair position offers the chance to work with an exceptional group of committed scholars and community members who share that common vision,” Dzewaltowski said. “Together, we can make significant, positive differences in the areas of child development, physical activity, healthful eating, and decreased obesity.”

The Buffett Institute is working with the NU Foundation and the University of Nebraska to establish endowed, tenured community chair positions on each of the four University of Nebraska campuses. A position at the University of Nebraska at Kearney was filled last summer by Kathleen Cranley Gallagher, inaugural recipient of the Cille and Ron Williams Community Chair for Early Childhood Education. Gallagher is a nationally recognized early childhood researcher who most recently held a research scientist position at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Similar positions are being established at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Nebraska Omaha.

The expertise and collaboration of the Buffett Institute will be available to the endowed professorships in order to strengthen and magnify their potential impact, Meisels said.