Advancements in Epidemiology and Intervention Core

The Epidemiology and Intervention Core has been very active, and much of this action is noted in the following discussions of the Obesity Prevention Center, Newly Funded Programs and HealthCare Delivery System.

Advancements with Obesity Prevention Center

Dr. Robert Jeffery, Director of the Epidemiology & Intervention Core of the Minnesota Obesity Center, spearheaded an application to the University of Minnesota Academic Health Sciences unit for a University funded center for obesity prevention dedicated to promoting research and education in the field. As a result, the University of Minnesota Obesity Prevention Center (UMOPC) was established as part of the Healthy Foods, Healthy Lives Presidential Initiative.

The UMOPC provides leadership and coordination at the local, national, and international level for multidisciplinary research and education that focuses on understanding and responding to the pernicious epidemic of excessive weight gain and obesity.

The Center’s mission includes coordination and expansion of the strong scientific base at the University of Minnesota to conduct research to better understand the causes of excessive weight gain in human populations, and to develop more effective measures for addressing the problem. Weight-gain prevention is defined broadly to include biological, behavioral, and sociocultural issues. Measures to address the problems are likewise broadly defined to include interventions focusing on individuals, community organizations, health-care delivery systems, the environment, and pubic education and public policy advocacy.

Newly Funded Programs

Highlights of the work of members of this core include several large newly funded programs:

  • The Core provided substantial support for the submission of a successful U01 grant proposal entitled “Linking Primary Care, Communities, and Families to Prevent Obesity Among Preschool Children – Net-WORKS (5 U01 HD068890). MNOC investigators, Simone French from the School of Public Health and Nancy Sherwood from the MNOC Healthcare Systems subcore at HealthPartners Institute for Education and Research, worked together on the creating the center administration, resulting in a large multidisciplinary group of collaborating investigators.
  • Dr. Robert Jeffery (outgoing Core Director) collaborated with Dr. Betsy Seaquist, MD, (Medical School) on a successful application to participate as a clinical center in "The Glycemia Reduction Approaches in Diabetes Effectiveness (GRADE): A Comparative Effectiveness Study." GRADE is a multicenter NIDDK-funded study that will compare diabetes medication combinations and two strategies (initial combination vs. sequential medication) in drug naïve and recent onset (<3 years duration) type 2 diabetes.
  • Dr. Dianne Neumark-Sztainer (incoming Core Director) has worked and published extensively with MNOC investigators. Her work effectively links obesity, disordered eating, eating patterns, and physical activity, demonstrating the strengths she will bring as incoming Core Director. Since 2010, her Project EAT research group has continued to conduct analyses using longitudinal data from a young adult cohort (10-year follow-up in 2008-2009) and cross-sectional data from a new cohort of adolescents (collected in 2009-2010). Additionally, 15-year follow-up data collection of the young adult cohort, and their significant others and preadolescent and adolescent children, is currently in progress. Findings will allow for an in-depth investigation of intergenerational influences on weight-related parenting practices and behaviors.
  • Dr. Jennifer Linde (Core Associate Director) collaborated with Dr. Robert Jeffery (prior Core Director) and Dr. Scott Crow (prior Disordered Eating Assessment Core Director) on a successful R01 application to evaluate frequency of weight tracking during a behavioral weight loss intervention. The Tracking Study is a NIDDK-supported study that randomized participants to daily, weekly, or no weight tracking during weight loss, and has monitored weight loss and psychosocial outcomes during a 1-year intervention with a 1-year follow-up. Results will inform behavioral weight management practices by elucidating optimal weight tracking frequency during intervention. The study has supported doctoral and postdoctoral training as well.
  • In April 2010, the Minnesota Obesity Prevention T32 Training Grant was awarded from NIDDK, and was renewed in 2015. The training grant has two training tracks: behavioral/epidemiology and basic science/clinical. Trainees are exposed to research and training in each of these fields and will work on research projects, publish manuscripts, complete a core curriculum, attend journal clubs and seminars, and receive training in grant writing, research ethics, and career development. The program currently provides training for three predoctoral and three postdoctoral fellows. MNOC investigators direct this grant: Dr. Robert Jeffery is the Program Director. Dr. Catherine Kotz, Professor in the Department of Food Science & Nutrition, is the Co-Director. Several additional MNOC investigators provide ongoing mentorship as program faculty.
  • The Midwest Regional Postdoctoral Training Program in Eating Disorders Research (T32 MH082761) under the direction of Dr. Scott Crow provides multidisciplinary research training to doctoral graduates planning academic research careers in the field of eating disorders. Due to the regional nature of the program, much of the combined training is conducted via video teleconferencing. The program holds two in-person meetings of the training cohort and mentors rotating between sites. Each of the trainees is engaged in several active research projects, including collaborative projects and projects of individual trainee’s own devising. The program is organized around a series of individual experiences for each trainee (consisting of their interactions with their mentoring team, conduct of their research projects, and taking individual course work at their host institution).

HealthCare Delivery Section

The Epidemiology & Intervention Core continues to provide support for the healthcare delivery section at HealthPartners Research Foundation, a large managed-care organization in Minnesota. The Health Care Delivery Section is intended to stimulate research on obesity-related issues in a real world health care delivery system. The collaboration provides access to large populations and support and consultation around technical areas such as health care economics, health system database design and management, and survey implementation. Work with HealthPartners has resulted in 8 new research grant applications in the past year. Notable among these has been the recent NIH R01 award for Dr. Nancy Sherwood’s project titled “Evaluating Options for Non-Responders:  A SMART Approach (The BEST-Fit Study).  This research is designed to develop innovative methods for optimizing weight loss outcomes in a healthcare setting, and therefore lowering risk of chronic conditions, in overweight and obese adults using a sequential multiple assignment randomized trial (SMART) design.