During the last 15 years, the prevalence of obesity has doubled in the US and in our State of Wisconsin. The resulting increases in diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, cancer and other obesity related diseases in children and adults in Wisconsin will have effects on the economy of the health care system that are unparalleled in the last 50 years.
As the leading academic medical center in Wisconsin, the University of Wisconsin-Madison has the opportunity, if not the responsibility, to take the leading role in research, treatment and prevention of obesity related disease. Currently, our University lacks a focus in the obesity arena, but does not lack expertise. We have outstanding physicians and academicians who are actively working in this arena, but in most cases they are working alone or in a small group. Building a cooperative network is vital if our efforts are to be efficient and truly successful at securing funding.
Grants and contracts to support of basic research, social science research, and translational research in obesity-related diseases are growing rapidly. We have secured funding and by forming multi-disciplinary partnerships between medical and public health researchers, sports fitness specialists, transportation, engineers and/or urban planners. For example, the State’s DHFS Nutrition & Physical Activity Program, has received obesity prevention funding from the CDC. Investigators in Pediatrics have received foundation support for intervention programs in schools. Faculty in CALS have received funding to test anti-obesity treatment and basic research funding to unlock the mechanisms of these diseases. Recently, the DHFS has approached the University to provide assistance with evaluation and research of community-level initiatives. These collaborative efforts are emblematic of the Wisconsin idea - bringing the University out into the community! Our recent successes, however, are just the tip of an extraordinary opportunity for the UW to lead development and implementation of new medical, technological, and public health research, and to merge this with population health initiatives.
We want the University of Wisconsin to become an internationally recognized leader in this important field. We are seeking your advice and support regarding a formal designation for the activities undertaken by a group of UW Medical School and University colleagues interested in the prevention and treatment of obesity and its complications. We believe it is the opportune time to take the next step and begin to create an institutional structure such as a cross-campus center to help support, facilitate and integrate researchers from multiple units.
To this end, we have already begun to organize. Our group (known thus far as the Wisconsin Prevention of Obesity and Diabetes—WiPOD) includes faculty from the Departments of Family Medicine, Pediatrics, Population Health, Transportation Engineering, Urban and Regional Planning, Soil Science, Land Information and Computer Graphics Facility, Nelson Institute, Nutritional Sciences, School of Nursing, as well as the State Department of Health and Family Services (DHFS), with additional support from UW-Extension, UW Hospital personnel, and local school personnel. We are the recipients of grants from the Wisconsin Partnership program (Community collaboration grant), CDC, and the NIH, as well as funding for the development of a new course for the MPH program (Prevention of Childhood Obesity), and support from ICTR. In addition, several of our members hold national leadership positions in our areas of expertise. Thus, we are poised to take the next step.