Global Obesity Summit

The Global Obesity Summit that wrapped up Thursday in Jackson marked the launch of the Obesity, Metabolism and Nutrition Center at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

“Where could there be a better place to study the causes of obesity and develop programs that not only treat but prevent obesity?” asked Dr. John Hall, associate vice chancellor for research at UMC, who has worked for years on creating the center.

UMC and the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership sponsored the summit, a two-day event that was the first coordinated effort between the business and scientific communities to tackle Mississippi’s top health care problem.

The center is set to open in April 2011.

Space in the Guyton Research Center at UMC will house the research component of the center. Plans include a treatment program and an education program. It will also tackle public policy in relation to obesity.

Leaders will work with the state Department of Health and higher education institutions to help implement the education program. Tougaloo College is a partner, and Tougaloo President Beverly Hogan has joined the center’s advisory committee.

Search for a center director is under way, and other researchers will be hired to investigate the mechanics of obesity and metabolic signaling.

About 550 people registered for the summit to hear from researchers and health care leaders from 16 countries and 32 states during sessions and panel discussions on topics, including treatment of obesity, health care costs, workplace wellness and research.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who gave the keynote address at a morning session Thursday, cited several areas of concern for battling obesity. Among them, she said, are research funding, community efforts, access to fresh fruits and vegetables, workplace wellness, and education in schools and in the home.

“If we don’t change the patterns that we’re seeing right now with kids and lower the rate of diabetes and lower the rate of obesity, we have the first generation of children in America who will have a shorter life span than their parents,” Sebelius said.

She said she is hopeful a bill pending in Congress will be approved to get more money and healthier foods for the school lunch program, which she says has been operating on the same budget for years.

Source: Shanderia K. Posey for The Clarion Ledger

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