_PUBLIC HEALTH Nutrition

_Well Center Opens

A new research center aims to untangle Americans’ often problematic relationship with food.

_Evan Forman

Forman is a professor in the College of Arts and Sciences and director of the WELL Center.

_meghan Butryn

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

Seventy percent of the country is overweight or obese and half the population achieves so little physical activity that they are considered sedentary. Meanwhile, eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa have serious — even deadly — health consequences, and existing treatments fail to help many patients.

Into this morass of food-related challenges steps Drexel’s new Center for Weight, Eating and Lifestyle Science, known as the WELL Center. It was launched to develop, test and share new behavioral and technological solutions for treating obesity and eating disorders. The center is opening at a critical time, says Director Evan Forman, a professor of psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences.

“We’ll have the opportunity to bring together scientists from multiple disciplines, including psychology, nutrition, neuroscience, computer sciences and biology. Developments in technology and behavior-change science make this an exciting time to work on these critical public health issues.”

— Evan Forman

“We’ll have the opportunity to bring together scientists from multiple disciplines, including psychology, nutrition, neuroscience, computer sciences and biology,” Forman says. “Developments in technology and behavior-change science make this an exciting time to work on these critical public health issues.”

From designing apps that train users to resist urges, to advancing new therapies for patients with bulimia, Forman and his colleagues are seeking unique, evidence-based methods that will create lasting lifestyle changes.
In addition to conducting research and training emerging scientists, the WELL Center includes a clinical arm that provides evidence-based treatments for weight loss and eating disorders. Clinicians also provide nutritional counseling and evaluations for those considering bariatric surgery.

A main research focus of the WELL Center is to develop technologies, such as smartphone apps, that do a better job than existing programs of helping individuals change their habits.

“Giving people tracking and prescriptions is helpful, but not at all sufficient to help them make substantive, lasting changes,” Forman says.