Pennington Biomedical’s Dr. Robert Newton Jr. to Study African American Fathers as Proponents of Children’s Health

December 7, 2023

Dr. Newton secured a $214,000 grant from the NIH’s National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities division for this study

For more information, contact Joe Coussan,, 225-763-3049

Robert Newton Jr. BATON ROUGE – Dr. Robert Newton Jr., Professor of Physical Activity & Ethnic Minority Health for Pennington Biomedical Research Center, was recently awarded a $214,000 grant to study the health of African American families, particularly exploring if fathers can serve as catalysts for their children’s health. The grant, which was awarded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities division of the National Institutes of Health, will be used for Dr. Newton’s proof of concept study Fathers and Children Exercising Together, or FACEiT. 

The study will analyze the degree to which fathers can influence their children’s health by incorporating exercise into family activities. In the first phase of development of the study, a focus group of African American fathers will be gathered to gauge interest in intervention to increase physical activity in their kids, what activities they feel would be most effective, and what time of day would work best with their families’ schedules. In particular, the study will target those fathers with children in the age range of 6 to 10 years old. In the second phase, the feedback gathered from the focus group will be incorporated into and inform a pre-developed intervention plan. 

“Fathers play a unique role in their children’s physical activity,” Dr. Newton said. “FACEiT will help us learn more about what these specific roles are, especially as they relate to African American fathers and the barriers they face to engaging in activity with their children. The study will also allow us to assess how social determinants of health factors influence African American father’s ability to engage in this type of intervention. I’m honored that the NIMHHD felt this study was worth their investment.” 

The third phase will be the intervention stage, which will compare three different groups. The first group will be a control, the second will include fathers who are given exercise instructions and then engage with their children and lead exercise regimens. The third group will mirror the second, with the inclusion of a community component. Dr. Newton has recruited the community group Fathers on a Mission, which will lead events where fathers and their children can participate in physical activities, such as bowling events or kayaking.  

“With the FACEiT study, Dr. Newton’s laboratory is the broader community, and his research is the health and wellbeing of our Baton Rouge neighbors,” said Dr. John Kirwan, Executive Director of Pennington Biomedical. “This study will ideally address the health disparities that exist among African Americans and will encourage health behaviors simultaneously across two generations. Pennington Biomedical is proud to have Dr. Newton on our team, as he helps us fulfill our mission of putting science to work for a healthier Louisiana and a healthier world.” 

Statistics show that African American adolescents do not meet the recommended levels of physical activity. By understanding the barriers that prevent children from reaching optimal physical activities, fathers can help remove those barriers and engage in movement and exercise as well.  

"Fathers on a Mission is excited about the partnership with Pennington Biomedical Research Center as we strive to bring awareness to the importance of physical activity,” said Levar Robison, Founder and CEO of Fathers on a Mission. Through the FACEiT study, we will offer and deliver physical activity interventions that will reduce the risk of health disparities around heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, and obesity in ourselves and most of all in our children. This is a process that is needed, and this is a process that Fathers need to lead." 

FACEiT is structured to test health and exercise interventions in children because physical activity levels in African American children begin to drop off between the ages of 6 and 10. Establishing physical activity habits at an early age can ultimately reduce the risk of chronic diseases later in life.  

About the Pennington Biomedical Research Center
The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the triggers of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. Pennington Biomedical has the vision to lead the world in promoting metabolic health and eliminating metabolic disease through scientific discoveries that create solutions from cells to society.  The Center conducts basic, clinical, and population research, and is affiliated with LSU.

The research enterprise at Pennington Biomedical includes over 480 employees within a network of 40 clinics and research laboratories, and 13 highly specialized core service facilities. Its scientists and physician/scientists are supported by research trainees, lab technicians, nurses, dietitians, and other support personnel. Pennington Biomedical a state-of-the-art research facility on a 222-acre campus in Baton Rouge.

For more information, see

Pennington Biomedical Research Center
6400 Perkins Road
Baton Rouge, LA 70808