Penny Gordon-Larsen of the Gillings School of Global Public Health leads the Obesity Creativity Hub, a diverse group of researchers from nutrition to behavioral health to data science who work collaboratively to solve the challenge of obesity. This team is working to go beyond one-size-fits-all to predicting the optimum approach for each patient.
Officially called the Heterogeneity in Obesity Creativity Hub: Transdisciplinary Approaches for Precision Research and Treatment, the hub was created as part of a UNC Research platform to bring researchers together to solve major societal problems.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 42% of adults were obese in 2017-2018, the year for which the most recent data is available. In North Carolina, the prevalence of obesity is 33%, up from 20% in 2000.
Understanding obesity involves far more than the amount of food people consume and the level of exercise they get, she said.
Gordon-Larsen, the Carla Smith Chamblee Distinguished Professor of Global Nutrition, attributes sedentary lifestyles and the habit of eating away from home and larger portion sizes on the considerable amount of weight gain.
Obesity is a complex disease that is studied from a molecular and genetic level to the societal and policy level factors that influence behavior and food purchasing and physical activity for individuals across the entire globe, she said.
“One thing that we do know is that once you start to gain weight, it is difficult to lose the weight,” Gordon-Larsen said. “The best thing we can do is really prevent people from that initial weight gain and to help people maintain their body weight at a healthy level.”
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