Public health conference ​​​to address obesity

The obesity epidemic and how science may be able to impact it is the focus of the upcoming annual conference of the Institute for Public Health at Washington University in St. Louis.

The conference will be noon-5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15, and 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16, at the Eric P. Newman Education Center on the Medical Campus.

The conference is free and open to the public, but participants are asked to preregister. To do so, visit here.

On the first day of the conference, Graham Colditz, MD, DrPH, deputy director of the Institute for Public Health and a disease prevention expert at Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University, will deliver the keynote address, “Translating Science to Practice to Improve Population Health.”

Colditz, the Niess-Gain Professor of Surgery at the School of Medicine, is an internationally recognized leader in cancer prevention. As an epidemiologist and public health expert, he has a longstanding interest in the preventable causes of chronic disease, particularly among women. He also is interested in strategies to speed research findings into prevention efforts. Colditz has studied the health effects of smoking, weight and weight gain, physical activity and diet.

The conference also will address the public health impact of obesity in St. Louis. A panel will discuss the issue and take questions from the audience. Panelists will include:

• Capt. Jose Belardo, JD, regional health administrator of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services;

• Dolores J. Gunn, director of the St. Louis County Department of Health;

• Debra Haire-Joshu, PhD, director of the Center for Obesity Prevention and Policy Research, the Joyce Wood Professor and associate dean for research at the Brown School;

• Mildred Mattfeldt-Beman, PhD, chair and associate professor in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at Saint Louis University;

• Cindy Mense, chief operating officer of Trailnet; and

• William A. Peck, MD, director of WUSTL’s Center for Health Policy and the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Distinguished Professor of Medicine

A poster session and reception will conclude the day’s activities.

On Oct. 16, the conference will focus on the promise of science in addressing obesity in the community. Topics will include childhood obesity and pathophysiology and metabolic issues. Samuel Klein, MD, the Danforth Professor in Medicine and Nutritional Science and chief of the Division of Geriatrics and Nutritional Science at WUSTL, will give the morning address, titled “Obesity Facts and Fantasies.”

Klein, who also is director of the university’s Center for Human Nutrition, is an internationally renowned expert on obesity and weight loss. He was one of the first researchers in the world to critically compare low-fat diets to low-carbohydrate diets. He also has been a leader in studying how obesity contributes to metabolic diseases such as diabetes and fatty liver disease.

Other presenters will include:
• Peter Turnbaugh, PhD, a Bauer Fellow in the FAS Center for Systems Biology at Harvard University;

• Terry T-K Huang, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Health Promotion, Social and Behavioral Health at University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health;

• Clay Semenkovich, MD, the Herbert S. Gasser Professor at WUSTL;

• Linda Peterson, MD, associate professor of medicine at WUSTL;

• Carlos Bernal-Mizrachi, MD, assistant professor of medicine and of cell biology and physiology at WUSTL;

• Gautam Singh, MD, professor of pediatrics at WUSTL;

• Ginger Nicol, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry at WUSTL; and

• Denise Wilfley, PhD, the Scott Rudolph Professor of Psychiatry and director of WUSTL’s Weight Management and Eating Disorders Program.

The conference is organized by WUSTL’s Institute for Public Health and the Center for Health Policy, with support from the university’s Center for Human Nutrition, Center for Obesity Prevention and Policy Research, Center for Diabetes Translation Research, and Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer Center.