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Robert S. Gordon, Jr. Lecture in Epidemiology

2015 Awardee

Portrait picture of Dr. Kumanyika
Shiriki K. Kumanyika, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania





Lecture Title

Research Directions for Solving the Obesity Epidemic in High-Risk Populations

View this Lecture
December 3, 2015

About this Lecture

Obesity prevalence is high in the U.S. population as a whole, but is significantly higher in children and adults in most U.S. racial/ethnic minority populations and in low-income populations, compared to whites or those with higher incomes. This is a persistent observation that continues to beg for explanations that can point the way toward effective and durable solutions. Several potential explanations relate to aspects of social, economic, and physical environments that influence eating and physical activity. Reviews of obesity research relevant to African Americans illustrate the difficulty of evaluating these explanations in ways that can inform specific interventions, but these reviews suggest promising research directions going forward.

About Dr. Kumanyika

Shiriki K. Kumanyika, Ph.D., M.P.H., is Professor Emerita of Epidemiology in the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. She served as Penn Medicine’s Associate Dean for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention from 1999 through June 2014, during which time she founded Penn’s university-wide, interdisciplinary Master of Public Health Program. Dr. Kumanyika's research focuses on reducing diet-related chronic disease risks. She has been principal investigator or co-investigator on several NIH-funded, single-site and multicenter trials and observational studies related to salt intake, other aspects of dietary intake, and obesity, including studies designed specifically to promote healthy eating and physical activity patterns in African American children and adults. In 2002, Dr. Kumanyika founded, and continues to lead, the African American Collaborative Obesity Research Network (AACORN)—a national network that seeks to improve the quality, quantity, and effective translation of research on weight issues in African American communities. She has authored or co-authored more than 300 research articles and other publications on nutrition, obesity, and other public health topics and is the lead editor of the Handbook of Obesity Prevention (Springer, 2007). Dr. Kumanyika has received numerous honors and awards for contributions to epidemiology and public health, including election to membership in the Institute of Medicine (IOM) (2003), the inaugural Population Research Prize from the American Heart Association (2005), the Robert F. Allen Symbol of H.O.P.E. (Helping Other People through Empowerment) Award from the American Journal of Health Promotion, and the Wade Hampton Frost Lecture Award from the Epidemiology Section of the American Public Health Association (2011).

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Dr. Kumanyika received her B.A. in psychology from Syracuse University, M.S. in social work from Columbia University, Ph.D. in human nutrition from Cornell University, and M.P.H. from the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health, and has served on both the Cornell and Johns Hopkins faculties. She has extensive experience in national and international public health and nutrition policy activities. Dr. Kumanyika has served on several IOM study committees and chaired the IOM Standing Committee on Childhood Obesity Prevention (2008‒2013). She has also served on numerous NIH task forces and advisory committees, including the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Advisory Council, chaired the American Heart Association Council on Epidemiology and Prevention, and was Vice-Chair of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary’s Advisory Committee on National Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Objectives for 2020 (Healthy People 2020). She is currently a member of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Community Preventive Services Task Force and President-elect of the American Public Health Association. Her global perspective on obesity emanates from her longtime involvement with the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF)—now the World Obesity Federation’s Policy and Prevention Section, which she co-chairs. She is also a nutrition epidemiology advisor to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Cancer Research Fund.

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