UMDNJ Experts Battle New Jersey's Obesity Epidemic

In “New Jersey’s Obesity Epidemic: The Role of the Health Care Professional,” the latest event in UMDNJ’s President’s Lecture Series, UMDNJ experts met these statistics head-on analyzing the causes of obesity and its impact on New Jersey residents, and also giving health care providers valuable prevention strategies that can be incorporated into their practices and into their patients’ lifestyles. The event attracted an audience of more than 200 made up of health care providers, nutrition experts and members of the public.

Among the themes explored:
• How personal biases towards their obese patients prevent some health professionals from effectively providing needed care;
• Why older communities and neighborhoods are more conducive to walking than newer neighborhoods;
• Why workplace wellness programs are often a win-win for employers and employees;
• What health professionals can do to make their practices more user friendly to their obese patients.

The distinguished panel of UMDNJ public health, medical and nutritional experts also discussed the social determinants of obesity, the sometimes overlooked environmental factors that can trigger excessive weight gain, as well as obesity prevention and intervention strategies that can be put in place in the workplace and by local communities.

Speaker highlights include:

George Rhoads, MD, MPH, interim dean and professor, UMDNJ-School of Public Health, detailed the impact of the obesity epidemic on New Jersey residents.

Irina Grafova, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Health Systems and Policy, UMDNJ-School of Public Health, analyzed how social and environmental factors contribute to the high obesity rates.

Jeffrey Levine, MD, MPH, a family physician and women’s health specialist at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School who has experienced the weight loss process as both a physician and a patient, discussed how the benefits of his weight loss improved his quality of life and made him more in tune with overweight patients. He drew upon his own experience losing large amounts of weight as a contestant on the television program “The Biggest Loser.”

Robert Johnson, MD, UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School Dean, highlighted how community groups are addressing the issue of obesity.

Riva Touger-Decker, PhD, RD, professor and chair, Department of Nutritional Sciences, UMDNJ-School of Health Related Professions, and professor and director, Department of Diagnostic Sciences, Division of Nutrition, UMDNJ-New Jersey Dental School, used UMDNJ’s Live Well! nutrition and wellness program as a case study for how diet and exercise programs in the workplace can be a catalyst for lifestyle changes.

Jeanne Ferrante, MD, MPH, associate professor, Department of Family Medicine, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, discussed the prevalence of “weight bias” in health care facilities, where certain providers have developed a prejudice against overweight patients and treated those patients badly as a result. She also suggested how providers can make their office environment more accommodating for obese patients.

Adarsh Gupta, DO, MS, associate professor, Department of Family Medicine, UMDNJ-School of Osteopathic Medicine, detailed individualized weight-management goals and obesity-prevention strategies for patients, and discussed what patients should know and do before they can be candidates for weight loss surgery.

The symposium was sponsored by the Office of the President and Department of University Advancement and Communications of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and UMDNJ-Center for Continuing and Outreach Education. Physicians, nurses, Registered Dietitians and Dietetic Technicians, Registered, were eligible for continuing education credits.

The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) is the nation’s largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 6,000 students attending the state’s three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health on five campuses. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, which provides a continuum of healthcare services with multiple locations throughout the state.

Name: Patti Verbanas
Phone: 973-972-7273