School of Medicine

Wayne State University School of Medicine

Dr. Naar-King presents 'Weight of the Nation, Confronting America's Obesity Epidemic' April 13

Sylvie Naar-King, Ph.D.

Sylvie Naar-King, Ph.D.

A Wayne State University School of Medicine professor specializing in interdisciplinary programming to address obesity, especially among children and teenagers, will be the speaker for the next Community Conversations on Health, presented by the Shiffman Medical Library.

Sylvie Naar-King, Ph.D., professor of Pediatrics and director of the Interdisciplinary Program in Obesity Research and Education at the School of Medicine, will present “Weight of the Nation, Confronting America's Obesity Epidemic” April 13 from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Margherio Family Conference Center.

While obesity is a growing problem for all Americans, it poses a greater problem for African-Americans, particularly children and adolescents. There haven’t been many studies of interventions designed to prevent or treat obesity among this population, and those attempted have largely failed. However, Dr. Naar-King and her team have set out to address this problem with the support of a five-year, $5.7 million grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development, both of the National Institutes of Health.  The project, “Interventionist Procedures for Adherence to Weight Loss Recommendations in Black Adolescents,” brings together a multidisciplinary team of researchers specializing in adolescent health behavior change, motivation and learning, and provider-family interactions within urban populations.

According to the 2009 “Overweight and Obesity in Michigan” report produced by the Michigan Department of Community Health, nearly 29 percent of high school students in the state were either overweight or obese based on body mass index measurements taken in 2007. And it’s not just the kids -- the same report shows that obesity in Michigan adults climbed 21.8 percent between 2001 and 2008 to a point where nearly 70 percent of adults in Michigan were considered overweight or obese. Among adults, blacks had a 39.8 percent obesity rate, while 28.8 percent of whites were obese. Slightly more than 42 percent of black women in the state were obese, the highest rate of any race/gender group. In all, Michigan’s 30.1 percent was the eighth highest obesity rate in the United States. After the Sanilac area (39.1 percent), Detroit had the highest prevalence of obesity at 38.1 percent.

In 2000, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put the nation’s cost of obesity-related health care at $117 billion. By 2008, that amount rose to $147 billion. Between 1987 and 2001, obesity-related diseases in the nation accounted for 27 percent of the increase in all medical costs. The CDC estimated that the cost of medical expenditures for obese workers was 29 percent to 117 percent higher than comparable costs for workers of normal weight. In real dollars, this translates into $3,785 to $38,270 more for those who are obese, according to the Ann Arbor-based Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation.

In the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the CDC found that 17 percent of children and adolescents ages 2 to 19 were obese. In the 20-year period ending in 2008, the obesity rate in pre-school children jumped from 5 percent to 10.4 percent and the rate in elementary school students increased from 6.5 percent to 10.6 percent. Among teens between the ages of 12 and 19, obesity increased from 5 percent to 18.1 percent. Interestingly, 84 percent of parents believed their children were at a “healthy” weight, despite these findings.

Studies indicate that obesity-related diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease and kidney failure occur at higher rates in obese children, just as they do in obese adults. And because obese children are very likely to become obese adults, the diseases are present for much longer in the life cycle, making symptoms in adults more acute.

The WSU project guides adolescents and their families through various sets of treatment options. Through these phases, the participants learn and practice skills that help them adhere to weight-loss strategies through healthier eating options and improved exercise programs. They are taught to trim about 500 calories from their daily food intake and to monitor physical activity levels.

Dr. Naar-King will share the motivational interviewing strategies to encourage behavioral changes and increase weight loss success at the presentation.

Attendance is limited to 100. To RSVP for the program, visit
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