_PUBLIC HEALTH Obesity

_The $150 Billion Problem

A multidisciplinary team is developing ways to battle the obesity epidemic by helping people lose weight and keep it off.

_meghan Butryn

Butryn is an associate research professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences.

A staggering 34.9 percent of the U.S. population is obese, and its resulting effects — heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and cancer — are all on the rise. This ever-worsening endemic costs the nation nearly $150 billion each year.

Associate Research Professor Meghan Butryn is developing ways to help people not only lose weight, but keep it off. It’s that second part of the equation — keeping the weight off — that has most flummoxed dieters and health professionals.

With a recently awarded $2.5 million grant, Butryn and Drexel co-researchers Evan Forman from the Department of Psychology, Stella Volpe from the College of Nursing and Health Professions, and Eugene Hong from the College of Medicine are working with 300 participants to determine whether exercise or diet is more important for keeping weight off after initial weight loss. All participants will receive 18 months of group-based behavior modification, and will be followed for another 18 months afterward.

78.6 Million

or

34.9%

Total number / percentage of
Americans who are obese.

Butryn, Forman and Michael Lowe, who is also from the Department of Psychology, also have a $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. That project, which also enrolled 300 participants and is currently in the follow-up phase, used a similar approach to study how the “food environment” and specialized behavioral skills influence participants’ ability to keep weight off.

The goal is to help people develop the lifestyle habits and mental framework that will allow them to live the lives they’ve dreamed of — free of the extra weight, and free, too, of the many health problems that weight can bring.