New strategic plan for NIH obesity research seeks to curb epidemic

Today the NIH announced the release of its new strategic plan to combat obesity. The Task Force that developed the recommendations was composed of researchers, health care professionals, and the public and was chaired by the Directors of NHLBI, NIDDK, NICHD, and NCI.

Task Force recommendations include prioritizing research to:

· discover key processes that regulate body weight and influence behavior

· understand the factors that contribute to obesity and its consequences

· design and test new approaches for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight

· evaluate promising strategies to prevent and treat obesity in real-world settings and diverse populations

· use technology to advance obesity research and improve healthcare delivery

NIH’s first strategic plan for obesity was released in 2004 under Elias Zerhouni. In FY2010, NIH spent $824M on research to reduce the prevalence of obesity and its health consequences. Look for that funding level to continue even with budget cuts looming on the horizon, as NIH continues to commit itself to what is arguably the number one public health crisis in the country. One-third of adults in the US and 17% of children are obese. The most prevalent, deadly, and costly diseases in the US—heart disease, type II diabetes, and many cancers—are directly related to obesity.

This topic is near and dear to my heart (I trained as a ballet dancer, have been a runner for years, and am writing this blog upon returning from a Pilates class.) By choice, many of my grant and policy clients are exercise physiologists and I have a satisfying, ongoing business association with the American College of Sports Medicine, an organization for which I have a great deal of respect. I am delighted to see NIH reaffirm its commitment to this troubling area.

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