OHSU Hosts Free Obesity town Hall Meeting at OMSI on Saturday, September 20

09/15/03    Portland, Ore.

Event sponsored by OHSU's new weight regulation research center will focus on Oregon's obesity epidemic, childhood obesity and the latest obesity research.

Recently the state of Oregon received the unfavorable distinction of being named one of the fattest states west of the Rockies. According to the latest data, more than 20 percent of adult Oregonians are obese, and 38 percent more are overweight. In response to this problem and other weight-related issues increasingly threatening Americans each year, Oregon Health & Science University is sponsoring an Obesity Town Hall meeting.

The event, The Obesity Epidemic: A Town Hall Meeting, will feature information on the state's growing obesity problem, childhood weight problems, the latest obesity research breakthroughs, and a talk by nationally respected fitness expert and walker Robert Sweetgall. Sweetgall has walked across America seven times and has been the subject of a National Geographic Special. Other speakers will include Oregon state epidemiologist Mel Kohn, M.D., and OHSU physicians and researchers specializing in obesity issues. The program will be emceed by David Heil, former host of the public television show "Newton's Apple." Each presentation will include time for audience questions and responses. In addition, hands-on activities to engage children and adults will be sponsored by the Food and Drug Administration.

The town hall meeting is being held in conjunction with the kickoff of OHSU's newly formed Center for the Study of Weight Regulation and Associated Disorders. The center conducts research into causes of and treatments for obesity and other disorders of weight regulation, such as cachexia and anorexia nervosa. Prior to the center's creation, OHSU took part in a number of key weight regulation discoveries, including the identification of specific cells in the brain involved in weight control. OHSU researchers also have identified hormones involved in weight loss and weight gain.

"Clearly obesity and other weight problems are serious issues in our state and across the rest of the country," said Roger Cone, Ph.D., director of the center and organizer of the town hall meeting. "Around 300,000 deaths in the United States can be attributed to weight problems each year, approximately the same number of deaths caused by smoking. With the formation of this new research center and this town hall meeting, we're stepping up our efforts in the fight against this growing epidemic."

In 2001 the U.S. Surgeon General issued a report titled "A Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity." According to that report, since 1980 the rate of overweight and obese children has doubled, and the rate for adolescents has tripled. In addition, weight issues and obesity are associated with serious health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, several forms of cancer and other chronic health problems.

The town hall meeting will be held the same week that Portland hosts a regional obesity conference for the public health community, businesses and universities. The meeting titled "Food, Physical Activity and Body Weight" will be hosted by both the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and OHSU, Sept. 18-19.