The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) Roundtable on Obesity Solutions is featuring a series of workshops, the next workshop is titled “Engaging Communities in Addressing Structural Drivers of Obesity,” held virtually on July 25, 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. EDT. UTHealth School of Public Health faculty, Leah Whigham, PhD, associate professor for the Department of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences and Director of the Center for Community Health Impact (CCHI) in El Paso, serves as organizing committee member for the upcoming workshop.
NASEM provide expert advice on some of the most pressing challenges facing the nation and world. Their work helps shape sound policies, inform public opinion, and advance the pursuit of science, engineering, and medicine.
The upcoming workshop will focus on the relevance and impact of power within communities in the context of the intersection of obesity with structural racism, bias and stigma, and health communication. The workshop will discuss the importance of community engagement and explore the barriers and opportunities for solutions at the community level.
Whigham’s national role on the organizing committee brings her expertise in addressing obesity comprehensively at the community level through the work of the CCHI. The CCHI uses community driven strategies informed by science to address obesity in the Paso del Norte region. Whigham is also representing The Obesity Society, a leading scientific society focused on research, treatment, and advocacy related to obesity, where she serves on the Executive Committee as Secretary/Treasurer.
This year’s forum will consist of five sessions, with Whigham facilitating the Workshop Wrap Up, reiterating key concepts and the necessity of using this platform to introduce policy and strategy changes at the system level.
Misperceptions about obesity often lead to strategies that fall short of having an impact. As Whigham explains, “When people see obesity as a simple matter of lifestyle choices rather than the complex chronic disease that it is, strategies to address the problem have little or no impact.” This workshop will start by framing the disease of obesity as having both causes and contributors. Causes are factors within the individual that lead to dysregulation of storage of excess energy as fat. Contributors are factors that increase or accelerate the expression of the disease. For example, a gene mutation can cause a dysregulation of hunger or satiety signaling that results in a tendency to overconsume calories. Treatments of such causes will help that person regulate food intake. However, a neighborhood with limited access to affordable healthy foods (a contributor) will make it more difficult for that person to include low-calorie, nutritious foods in their daily diet.
This workshop will emphasize that integration of strategies that address both causes and contributors at a community or system level is necessary.
More information about the virtual presentation can be accessed on the NASEM website. Registration for this free event will be open until the day of the workshop, and you can find this on Eventbrite. Please be sure to attend July 25, 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. EDT, and continue the research and discussion surrounding obesity solutions.