Partnership for the Advancement of Cancer Research Project

Pilot Research Project Eleven

Gardens For Health: Development of an Intervention Model for the Prevention or Management of Diet Related Illness Among the Navajo

Co-Principal Investigators:
Shirley Beresford, Member, Public Health Sciences – FHCRC
Kevin Lombard, Assistant Professor, Agricultural Science Center at Farmington – NMSU

Obesity and associated cancer risks at sites including the colon and breast are on the rise among Native Americans and Alaska Natives. The literature implicates a “reverse migration” to a diet high in fat and increased sedentariness, factors that are also associated with increased risk of type-2 diabetes, which is at >14% of the Navajo Nation; the largest indigenous tribe in the U.S.  In particular, fruit and vegetable consumption has been noted as low among this population.

Numerous studies show that moderate consumption of fruits and vegetables, combined with exercise, reduces the risk or delays the onset of some types of cancer. The city of Bloomfield, NM began construction of a community garden in 2008 adjacent to its Senior Center with the aim of increasing the fruit and vegetable production fed into it’s kitchen while providing seniors an opportunity to work in the garden.  Their project also intendeds to include youth partnering and interacting with elders while in the garden. Demographics of the center include approximately 34% Native American and 34% Hispanic. Sixty-one percent of children in the Bloomfield Public School system receive a subsidized lunch during weekdays.

Building on the prior success of home and community garden projects, this project seeks to evaluate the feasibility of taking a combined approach of integrating Public Health/Cancer Epidemiology with Horticultural Science and take a holistic view to behavior change: to shift eating and exercise habits back toward healthier lifestyles while addressing underlying issues of poor availability of fruits, vegetables, and traditional foods on the Navajo nation. To assess the current situation, we will pilot test modified fruit and vegetable intake questionnaires and questionnaires to gauge perceptions about gardening as a return to1) locally producing a variety of nutritious foods, 2) increasing physical activity attained through the act of daily gardening tasks, 3) and increasing income generating options.

For More Information

Learn more about Dr. Beresford’s research interests.

Information about Dr. Lombard’s research interests and related experience can be found at:

Faculty and students interested in learning more about this pilot project may contact Dr. Shirley Beresford at or Dr. Kevin Lombard at


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