Center for Childhood Obesity Prevention

In 2016, Arkansas Children’s Research Institute received a $9.4 million COBRE Phase 1 award to create a center for the study of childhood obesity. Led by Judy Weber, PhD, RD, the multidisciplinary Center for Childhood Obesity Prevention strengthens ACRI’s obesity research capacity and creates mentoring pathways for emerging scientists whose work is focused on pediatric obesity. The Center also serves as an anchor for the development of a comprehensive pediatric obesity program in the Arkansas Children’s Health System statewide. The focus of the CCOP is to better understand the origins of pediatric obesity, as well as the behavioral and environmental contributors, and to develop interventions designed to prevent and treat, and ultimately reduce, childhood obesity and its associated complications.

Current studies funded by the award range across the full translational spectrum, from investigating underlying basic metabolic factors to clinical effectiveness trials to population outcomes research. The award has established two biomedical scientific infrastructure research cores to support the thematic work of the Center: the Biostatistics Core and the Metabolism and Bioenergetics Core. Anticipated in the 5-year Phase 2 of the CCOP is the establishment of a third scientific infrastructure core, the Community Engagement Core. Unique to the CCOP is the direct involvement of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI), which houses the state body mass index (BMI) data warehouse. In establishing and growing the Center, the team will continue to work to prevent the rise in Arkansas childhood overweight and obesity rates. Currently among school-age youth in Arkansas, 23% have obesity and 17% are classified as overweight, according to ACHI. The goal is to reduce this rate significantly over the next 5 to 10 years. New discoveries and knowledge produced through the work of the CCOP and partners throughout the state are continually being translated into novel programs, interventions, and treatments necessary to make our children not only better today but healthier tomorrow.

Contact: Judith Weber, PhD, RD (WeberJudithL@uams.edu)