Combating Overweight and Obesity

09/08/03    Portland, Ore.

Four-state conference in Portland will examine problems, solutions

In response to the growing public health problem of overweight children and adults, Oregon Health & Science University and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will hold a two-day conference titled "Food, Physical Activity and Body Weight" at the Hilton Portland and Executive Tower Hotel Sept. 18-19. Representatives from the public health community, community organizations, businesses and universities will participate from the four-state region of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

Conference highlights will include a video presentation on Thursday, Sept. 18, by "Galloping Gourmet" celebrity Graham Kerr, speaking about his efforts to prevent obesity, and a luncheon/walk on Friday, Sept. 19, with Robert Sweetgall. Sweetgall is the founder of Creative Walking, an organization that specializes in walking and wellness programs. In the period of one year (1984-85), Sweetgall made an 11,208-mile journey on foot across the entire United States, averaging 31 miles a day.

The U.S. Surgeon General report, "A Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity, 2001" reported that since 1980, the rate of overweight and obese children has doubled, and the rate for adolescents has tripled. Approximately 300,000 deaths in the United States can be attributed to overweight and obesity. Weight issues and obesity are associated with serious health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, several forms of cancer and other chronic health problems. HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson has emphasized the importance of health promotion and disease prevention in his "Steps to a HealthierUS" initiative.

The conference will feature experts from the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and community-based organizations addressing overweight and obesity. Wanda Jones, Dr.P.H., deputy assistant secretary for health for the Office of Women's Health, HHS, will be the keynote speaker on Thursday. The conference will focus on a number of issues related to overweight and obesity, including:

  • Successful community interventions that help people pick healthy foods and exercise.
  • Workplace strategies to encourage employees to adopt and maintain healthy lifestyles.
  • How schools can implement programs to prevent and decrease overweight and obesity.

The Center for the Study of Weight Regulation and Associated Disorders at OHSU is hosting the conference. The recently formed center conducts research into causes of and treatments for various weight regulation problems including obesity. Researchers in the center also study health disorders related to various weight problems. Prior to the creation of this center, OHSU has been involved in a number of key weight regulation discoveries, including the identification of specific cells in the brain involved in weight control. OHSU researchers have also identified hormones involved in weight loss and weight gain. A separate public kickoff event for the research center will be held the morning of Sept. 20. For more information on this event, visit: http://www.ohsu.edu/weight/".

Additional sponsors for the professional program include: the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Western Region; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Region 10; and the National Institutes of Health and the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, both part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. More information, including registration requirements, is available at http://www.ohsu.edu/weight/calltoaction/.

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