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Houston women benefit from DNP student’s capstone project

“[Ball State’s] 24/7 access to courses without mandatory log-in times makes it convenient for working advanced practice nurses who are also wives and mothers, like me.”

—Doctorate of nursing practice online student Laura Kanu, who is clinical director and administrator of a family and pediatric clinic in Houston

Laura Kanu, clinical director and administrator of a family and pediatric clinic in suburban Houston, Texas, was troubled that so many of the African-American women who visited the clinic were overweight or obese.

Kanu cites studies that say obesity has hit epidemic proportions in the United States and that more than three out of four non-Hispanic black women are either obese or overweight.

Obesity, she notes, can be a factor in chronic, preventable health problems such as hypertension, diabetes, coronary artery disease, hyperlipidemia, osteoarthritis, and various cancers.

“When any segment of our community—be it ethnic majority or minority—is ill, the entire community feels the impact,” says Kanu. That impact, she says, includes the financial burden of treating obesity and related conditions on individuals, families, and communities; loss in productivity and wages for businesses and employees due to absenteeism; and, ultimately, the loss of quality of life.

So when it came time to choose a capstone project for the doctorate of nursing practice (DNP) degree she was pursuing online through Ball State, Kanu wanted to address a national problem at a local level and give women the tools needed to address dietary and health issues.

For the capstone project, students use research and theory to design, implement, and evaluate a scholarly plan to improve health outcomes in health care systems, clinical practice, or community settings.

Kanu’s project, titled “Implementing a Culturally Tailored Diet Program to Promote Healthy Diet and Weight Loss in Obese African-American Women,” enlisted 20 women to attend eight weekly 30-45 minute sessions promoting health awareness and weight-loss programs while also enrolled in a structured physical activity program.

Each participant’s weight and body mass index (BMI) was assessed at the beginning of the project, bi-weekly, and at the end of the eight weeks. At that point, notes Kanu, most participants had a reduction in body mass index as well as weight.

“Laura’s project was exemplary in the application of research and theory to develop, implement, and evaluate a weight-loss program culturally tailored to meet the needs of obese African -American women,” says Beth Kelsey, director of the DNP program.

Required of all DNP students, the capstone project has become the signature of the DNP program.

According to Kelsey, another DNP student designed a capstone to help local low-income people with diabetes II improve diet choices while shopping at food pantries and low-cost foods while another doctoral student looked at the importance of advance care planning for veterans with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or congestive heart failure.

Kanu, who graduates spring of 2013, says that the capstone project and watching the women achieve healthy diets and decrease their risk for chronic disease was the highlight of her Ball State degree program.

Community outreach is nothing new for Kanu, who volunteered her time at the Houston Astrodome in 2005 during Hurricane Katrina’s recovery phase, organizing an effort that covered pediatrics, obstetrics, and the adult and geriatric population.