October 31, 2008

Hearing examines childhood obesity

Featured Image

This year’s Live It! Go for the Red, White and Blue program kicked off in high energy fashion recently at Glencliff High School. (photo by Joe Howell)

Hearing examines childhood obesity

In an effort to expand awareness of the topic, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) recently invited four Nashville experts to testify at a hearing on America's childhood obesity epidemic.

The hearing, which took place at the library at Meharry Medical College on Oct. 23, was recorded for presentation to the remaining members of his Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP).

The expert witnesses included pediatricians Shari Barkin, M.D., from the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, and Susanne Tropez-Sims, M.D., from Meharry Medical College.

In her testimony, Barkin, director of the Division of General Pediatrics, emphasized the depth and variety of stakeholders that must be included in any efforts to effect change in the obesity epidemic.

She asked Alexander and his committee to help coordinate efforts and make pediatric obesity prevention a clear national priority.

“If obesity is, in effect, contagious in our society, then what we need to do is to make a healthy mindset contagious by making health messages pervasive in the community,” Barkin said.

Tropez-Sims, associate dean of Clinical Affiliations and professor of Pediatrics at Meharry, mentioned her current research on maternal weight gain and its effect on infant weight gain in the first year of life. She pointed out that infants younger than four months old who gained weight very rapidly often go on to be obese adults. Tropez-Sims emphasized the many ways the government can be of help.

Both physicians reinforced the importance of funding and otherwise supporting research efforts. The two other participants in the hearing were Susan Cooper, R.N., M.S.N., Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health, and David Griffin, a Cedar Hill, Tenn., resident who participated in the TV reality show “The Biggest Loser.”