Doctoral Student Receives Scholarship to Aid Maternal and Child Health Research

By Kev' Moye

Martinez, who’s in the college’s Health Promotion and Prevention Research program, will receive a scholarship of $5,000. The funding comes from a maternal and child health catalyst program grant that Alex Marshall, Ph.D., associate professor and director of the program, received from Health Resources and Services Administration. Through the grant, students are eligible to receive funding for research projects.

“My research will help improve the health of pregnant women with obesity and their children,” Martinez said. “I’ll transcribe interviews to help me understand factors that shape the eating decisions of pregnant women with obesity.”

Martinez, a research manager for the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Nutrition Center, first developed an interest in maternal and child health while working in a pediatric research facility. During that time, interacting with women who were pregnant and obese sparked her desire to create nutritious dietary patterns.

“Increasing rates of overweight or obese women in Arkansas, of reproductive age, creates an urgent demand for identifying what dietary changes are most beneficial for mitigating the metabolic effects of obesity on offspring health outcomes,” Martinez said. “However, there’s a lack of research on the dietary intakes of pregnant women with obesity and even less is known about the determinants to these dietary patterns.”

Martinez also hopes to use her dissertation to design dietary interventions and eventually implement a clinical trial.

“Pregnancy provides a unique window of opportunity to build nutrition knowledge and skills because women are motivated by their ability to influence the health of their baby,” she said. “We can give children who are born to women with obesity a better start by optimizing the intrauterine environment and helping a primary caregiver set an example of good dietary practices.”

Martinez appreciates the scholarship and said the funding will help her play a role in protecting the well-being of generations of Arkansans.

“Addressing health disparities ensures equitable access to health care, promotes social justice and equality,” Martinez said. “Maternal and child health is linked to long-term societal effects, which influences the trajectory of future generations.”