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Deep Roots: UR Nursing Researcher Receives Grant to Cultivate Healthy Eating Habits for Local Migrant Workers

  By Ivy Burruto
  Tuesday, January 19, 2021

A leading researcher at the University of Rochester School of Nursing is aiming to improve the nutrition of the people who help put healthy food on our tables.

Karen Stein, PhD, RN, FAAN, UR School of Nursing’s Ruth Miller Brody and Bernard Brody Endowed Professor, received approval for a grant, “Extending our Reach: A mHealth Intervention to Promote Healthy Eating in Mexican Immigrant Farmworker Families,” from the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation. The foundation provides grants to improve the health and well-being of underserved, vulnerable, and disadvantaged individuals within New York state.

Mexican immigrant farmworkers (MIFW)—though vital to the Western New York economy—are considered to be among the poorest, most isolated, and marginalized populations in the state. Access to nutrition preventative care is limited in the MIFW population due to lack of health insurance, work conditions, and overburdened health services. Of these MIFW, up to 70% of children and 80% of adults are overweight, 30% of adults are hypertensive, 40% have metabolic syndrome, and 38% of women have type-2 diabetes.

immigrant farm workers

Women, in particular, stated their dietary intake changed dramatically after moving to the United States. Several factors include limited budgets, demanding work schedules, and high stress and pressures from children for American foods. These changes have led to significant weight gain and a high prevalence of weight-related diseases.

Stein’s intervention program via a smartphone app will help the MIFW community understand the factors that influence their dietary intake and eating patterns: regional food values, traditions and eating practices, culturally-based gender body image norms, and economic and environmental job-related factors that would impede or facilitate healthy eating.

The app will be intuitive to use, culturally consistent, and understandable without requiring high literacy skills. Content will be delivered through videos, cartoons, images, and auditory communication to maximize interest and sustained engagement.

“Our longer-term plan is to make healthy eating accessible through smartphone delivery. Further, by being self-administered at home the many barriers associated with clinic visits are eliminated and access to the intervention at times in their daily schedule is made possible,” said Stein. “With this ongoing process of collaboration and communication, we are confident that the community's dietary health needs will be identified and addressed.”


Stein is a longstanding researcher and advocate for health risk behaviors in adolescent and adult female with a focus on individual differences in identity development. Since joining the UR School of Nursing, Stein has forged a strong working relationship with the farmworker community in Western New York.

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