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Annual research conference on obesity unites experts and advocates

Texas Obesity Research Center

Participants during last year's Texas Obesity Research Center conference discuss the issue of obesity.

The Texas Obesity Research Center (TORC) will conduct its second annual conference, Advancing Obesity Research in a New Decade, Nov. 18–19 at the Elizabeth D. Rockwell Pavilion in the M. D. Anderson Library on the University of Houston's main campus.

The conference will provide an important opportunity for researchers, practitioners and concerned citizens to come together to learn more about obesity prevention, treatment and control. Conference participants include representatives from the Department of Health and Human Performance, the Department of Psychology, the Department of Hispanic Studies, the College of Pharmacy and the UH Law Center.

The Advancing Obesity Research in a New Decade conference will showcase interdisciplinary, translational and transformational obesity research in Texas and beyond, and demonstrate state-of-the-art and comprehensive approaches for the prevention and treatment of obesity in clinical, community and worksite settings.

The keynote speaker on Nov. 18 will be Michael I. Goran, who is director of the Childhood Obesity Research Center in the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. TORC director Rebecca E. Lee, a professor in the Department of Health and Human Performance, will welcome attendees during the opening session.

"Dr. Goran is an internationally acclaimed, well-established leading researcher in childhood obesity," Lee said. "Having such an important player on the national obesity scene here at UH is great for enhancing our image as a formidable and growing research institution."

The second day of the conference features three seminar sessions that focus on three distinct sets of professionals who are addressing the issue. The first session, titled "Clinical and Translational Research," includes Department of Psychology professor Leigh Leasure and College of Pharmacy professor Romi Ghose. The second session is titled "Community Based Research" and includes Barker Harrell, the founder of the Active Life Movement organization. The third session is titled "Health Care Reform and Obesity Debate," and includes Texas State Representative Carol Alvarado and UH Law Center adjunct professor John Lunstroth.

Texas Obesity Research Center

The Texas Obesity Research Center's Advancing Obesity Research in a New Decade conference will provide an opportunity for leading obesity researchers and the public to gather to discuss confronting the issue.

"We tried to play to our strengths and hit the high points of the field with those three sessions," Lee said. "Since obesity is hot on the national scene, and many policy efforts are aimed at reducing the obesity epidemic, we thought it was great to capitalize on the recently enacted health care bill to try to think and talk about that. It takes a multidisciplinary approach to understand, treat and reverse the obesity epidemic."

Between sessions, Jennifer Brugh-Tanguy, founder of Nightclub Cardio, will speak about her unique program and the audience will be invited to participate.

During lunch, Hispanic literature professor Nicolas Kanellos will speak about the Salud, Familia program, which is Arte Publico Press' publishing and outreach program that encompasses health and nutrition education. The first book of the Salud, Familia series, titled "I Kick the Ball," by local author Gwendolyn Zepeda, tells the story of a boy who uses his imagination as he makes healthy lifestyle choices, and a coloring book version of the story is available for a free download.

The book was featured on the website for Rachel Ray's nonprofit organization, Yum-o!.

To learn more about the schedule of speakers and to register, visit

UPDATE: To see coverage of the event, visit

—Martha Hayes and Brandon Moeller, photos by Jim Silva