Dr. Alexandra Adams

Alexandra Adams, MD

Madison, Wisconsin – The Wisconsin Partnership Program at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health has committed more than $8.6 million to address the state’s obesity epidemic. The Wisconsin Obesity Prevention Initiative will include community-based research, initially in Marathon and Menominee counties.

“Obesity is one of the most complex issues of our time,” said Dr. Alexandra Adams, professor of family medicine at the School of Medicine and Public Health. “To have a lasting impact, it must be addressed in a meaningful, systematic and coordinated way. Everyone has a role in this, and unless there is a measurable level of success in preventing obesity, the state’s health systems will be overwhelmed.”

A five-year $7.5 million grant from the Partnership Education and Research Committee will provide the infrastructure for bringing together government entities, communities, researchers, non-profit organizations and businesses. Grant funding also will be used to develop a childhood obesity surveillance system and create statewide messaging that helps residents understand how daily decisions affect their health. Dr. Adams is the principal investigator for the grant and leads a team of faculty and community investigators.

In collaboration with health officials in Marathon and Menominee counties, researchers will use a $1.1 million grant from the Partnership Program’s Oversight and Advisory Committee to test and implement a community-based model for childhood obesity prevention. Dr. Brian Christens, associate professor of human ecology at UW-Madison, is the principal investigator for this first phase of community work.

Dr. Adams and other UW-Madison faculty members have a long history of partnership with the two counties, and they will build on their relationships with community leaders, state and local health department staff members, and other local residents.

Obesity is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, cancer and other diseases. According to preliminary data from the Survey of the Health of Wisconsin, 72 percent of Wisconsin adults are overweight or obese. There is limited information about the weight of children; however, data suggests that 25 percent of Wisconsin high school students and 31 percent of children 2 to 4 years old are overweight or obese (compared to 12 percent and 5 percent, respectively, 50 years ago).

“UW-Madison has the opportunity – if not the responsibility – to take a leading role in the research, treatment and prevention of obesity-related disease,” said Dr. Robert Golden, dean of the School of Medicine and Public Health. “The Obesity Prevention Initiative brings together UW-Madison faculty and staff members across the full research spectrum to work alongside community members in addressing this complex issue.”

About the Wisconsin Partnership Program

The Wisconsin Partnership Program represents a far-reaching commitment by the UW School of Medicine and Public Health to improve the health and well-being of Wisconsin residents through investments in research, education and community-academic partnerships. The Partnership Program was created with funds from the conversion of Blue Cross & Blue Shield United of Wisconsin to a stock insurance corporation. Since 2004, it has awarded 375 community, education and research grants totaling almost $157 million.

Date Published: 12/17/2014