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Childhood Obesity: Mechanisms, Interventions, Policy and New Frontiers

  Martin Myers
  Martin Myers presents "Molecular and Neural Mechanisms of Leptin Action". photo by Jon Nalick
   

On April 15-16, 2010, the USC Childhood Obesity Research Center (CORC) hosted it’s 3rd annual symposium: “Childhood Obesity: Mechanisms, Interventions, Policy and New Frontiers”. Under the leadership of CORC’s director Dr. Michael Goran, this annual event was conceived as a forum to increase interactions among researchers studying disparate aspects of childhood obesity prevention and treatment. It is CORC’s belief that the issue of childhood obesity is a multifaceted one, which can only be solved by approaching the problem from all angles. To that effect, topics covered in the two-day symposium ranged from obesity’s related conditions, including fatty liver disease and sleep apnea; to novel interventions for prevention and treatment; to the effect of televised food advertising on children.

Building on the foundation of previous years, the 2010 symposium was expanded by an additional day to include a trainee and mentoring workshop. At this workshop, students, postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty from USC and across the country were invited to present their work for an audience of approximately 100 guests. Eight trainees from universities outside of California were awarded $500 travel grants (plus room and board) to attend the symposium and share their findings. These out-of-towners joined young investigators from USC to give short talks on topics that spanned from genetics to the effect of diet soda on diabetes, from physical activity to a neighborhood environment’s effect on health. Some of the unique work that CORC has done on these topics was also displayed during a lunchtime poster session, which provided the perfect opportunity for visitors to become more familiar with research efforts at USC. Following the morning’s presentations and poster session, CORC faculty hosted a mentoring workshop featuring USC’s Executive Director of Research Advancement, Steven Moldin, who offered valuable insight on the grant writing process for new investigators. After Dr. Moldin’s presentation, CORC faculty wrapped up the day with a Q&A panel on career development.

On the following day the symposium continued on its transdisciplinary theme with presentations by distinguished speakers from across the country. Presenters for this crowd of 175 included the following prominent researchers:

  • Tom Baranowski, PhD, of Baylor College of Medicine, presenting Playing for Real: Videogames for Children’s Diet and Physical Activity Change
  • Joel Elmquist, DVM, PhD of the University of Texas, Southwestern, presenting From Lesions to Leptin: Hypothalamic Control of Energy Balance and Glucose Homeostasis
  • Harold Goldstein, DrPH, of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, presenting The Critical Role of Public Policy in Addressing Obesity and Health
  • Marientina Gotsis, MFA, of the University of Southern California, presenting Interactive Media and Behavior Change: Promises and Challenges
  • Martin Myers, MD, PhD, of the University of Michigan, presenting Molecular and Neural Mechanisms of Leptin Action
  • Elizabeth Parks, PhD, of the University of Texas, Southwestern, presenting Impact of Obesity on Fatty Acid Flux from the Fasted to the Fed State
  • Antonio Rangel, PhD, of the California Institute of Technology, presenting The Neurobiology of Dietary Self-Control
  • Jeffrey Schwimmer, MD, of the University of California, San Diego, presenting A New Trojan Horse: Fatty Liver Mysteries and Milestones

We were also very happy to have Los Angeles Councilwoman Jan Perry in attendance, who spoke briefly about her work to combat childhood obesity, and what else can be done at the governmental level to address this growing problem. The whole event wrapped up with a cocktail reception for attendees and presenters to interact and unwind after two days of energizing research presentations.

The Childhood Obesity Research Center is very pleased with the outcome of the symposium, which not only provided a forum to share ideas, but no doubt inspired future collaborations. Feedback from guests and speakers was frequent and very positive, and we’re glad to be able to offer a platform for this kind of interaction. Plans are already in the works for a 2011 meeting, and we hope to keep improving and expanding with each year.

 

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