Obesity offensive tries behavioral slant

January 8, 2010
RheumatologyNetwork Staff

The Journal of Musculoskeletal Medicine, The Journal of Musculoskeletal Medicine Vol 27 No 1, Volume 27, Issue 1

Obesity poses a significant public health challenge that increases the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, some cancers, osteoarthritis, and other conditions, according to the NIH. Therefore, the organization is leading a new obesity prevention initiative that will use findings from basic research on human behavior to develop more effective interventions to combat the problem.

Obesity poses a significant public health challenge that increases the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, some cancers, osteoarthritis, and other conditions, according to the NIH. Therefore, the organization is leading a new obesity prevention initiative that will use findings from basic research on human behavior to develop more effective interventions to combat the problem.

In the program, Translating Basic Behavioral and Social Science Discoveries Into Interventions to Reduce Obesity, interdisciplinary teams at 7 research sites will conduct experimental research, formative investigations to increase understanding of populations being studied, proof of concept trials, and pilot and feasibility studies to identify promising avenues for encouraging behaviors that might help prevent or manage obesity. With the new emphasis on applying findings from basic behavioral and social sciences to improve behavioral strategies, the approach differs from previous large clinical trials of behavioral interventions to reduce obesity, the NIH noted.

The interventions in development include creative new approaches designed to accomplish the following:
•Promote awareness of specific eating behaviors.
•Decrease a person's desire for high-calorie foods.
•Reduce stress-related eating.
•Increase a person's motivation to adhere to weight loss strategies.
•Engage a person's social networks and communities to encourage physical activity.
•Improve sleep patterns.

Brain scans will be used to boost understanding of brain mechanisms in obesity that might guide the development of new interventions. The program's studies focus on diverse populations at high risk for being overweight or obese, including Latino and African American adults, African American adolescents, persons in low-income populations, pregnant women, and women in the menopausal transition.

The $37 million program is being led by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), in partnership with the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), and the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR). The research projects include the following:
•Small Changes and Lasting Effects, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York (sponsored by the NHLBI)-will develop and refine a mindful eating intervention aimed at producing small, sustainable changes in eating behavior in overweight or obese African American and Latino adults and achieving at least a 7% weight reduction in each participant.
•Translating Habituation Research to Interventions for Pediatric Obesity, State University of New York at Buffalo (sponsored by the NIDDK)-will translate basic research on the response to food after repeated exposure over time to identify and test strategies for reducing the intake of high-calorie foods while increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables that children consume.
•Interventionist Procedures for Adherence to Weight Loss Recommendations in Black Adolescents, Wayne State University, Detroit (sponsored by the NHLBI, cofunded by the NICHD)-will develop and refine a home- and community-based intervention using findings from basic behavioral research on human motivation to improve adherence to weight loss strategies in African American adolescents.
•Developing an Intervention to Prevent Visceral Fat in Premenopausal Women, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago (sponsored by the NHLBI)-will develop a multilevel intervention targeting the woman, her social network, and the community to increase physical activity and reduce chronic stress and depression to reduce unhealthy patterns of weight gain in women in the menopausal transition.
•Increasing Sleep Duration: A Novel Approach to Weight Control, Miriam Hospital, Providence, Rhode Island (sponsored by the NCI)-will translate basic research on sleep duration into a unique method to reduce obesity and obesity-related conditions in young and middle-aged overweight or obese adults.
•Novel Interventions to Reduce Stress-Induced Nonhomeostatic Eating, University of California, San Francisco (sponsored by the NHLBI)-will develop intervention strategies to reduce stress-induced eating in lower-income pregnant women, focusing on the reward and stress response systems that may influence eating behaviors and lead to unhealthy weight gain during pregnancy.
•Habitual and Neurocognitive Processes in Adolescent Obesity Prevention, Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, California (sponsored by the NHLBI, cofunded by the NICHD)-will develop intervention strategies to improve nutrition behaviors in adolescents based on basic behavioral research on the formation of habits, self-regulation of eating behaviors, and the influence of neurocognitive processes on dietary behavior.

A Resource and Coordination Unit led by David Cella, PhD, of Northwestern University in Chicago and funded by the NIH's OBSSR will facilitate collaboration across the studies. As part of this program, the unit also will organize an OBSSR-funded conference this year to address methods in behavioral intervention development.

For more information about NIH and its programs, visit its Web site at http://www.nih.gov. Or, contact the organization at National Institutes of Health, 9000 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20892; telephone: (301) 496-4000.

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