Obesity prevalence is increasing rapidly. Worldwide, around 250 million people are obese and the World Health Organization has estimated this number will increase to 300 million people by 2025. Obesity is strongly associated with increased morbidity, disability and mortality and accounts for 7% of U.S. health care costs. Given these dire statistics, strategies for prevention of obesity must become a higher public health priority. However, without an understanding of the complex biological, sociological and behavioral mechanisms underlying the development of obesity, it is impossible to design effective prevention strategies. Using obesity prevention as a research focus, our aim is to educate doctoral students in a highly interdisciplinary program that focuses on the integration of basic biology, nutrition and behavioral sciences across the continuum from cell to community.
The Division of Nutritional Sciences has a preeminent record in nutrition education, research and public service and is positioned ideally to provide the proposed training. Affiliated faculty members are engaged actively in well-funded cellular and molecular research and community-based interventions and collaboration among the investigators is particularly evident. Two multidisciplinary intervention studies (PEER and STRONG Kids) provide exceptional opportunities for cross-training of graduate students. Core and elective coursework focusing on integrative nutrition and experiential learning will fulfill the Ph.D. requirements and complement the trainee’s research.