Dr. John Hall, UMMC associate vice chancellor for research and the driving force behind the new center, said Mississippi's high rate of obesity and linked diseases is the reason why the Medical Center should be at the forefront of investigating them.
"We are the place where these diseases have the greatest impact, so we also have the greatest opportunity for the study of these diseases," Hall said.
As a researcher and chairman of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Hall and scientists in his lab have long investigated the hormone leptin, which is highly involved in regulating appetite and energy burn rate.
Obesity, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases rapidly have become critical health problems in Mississippi as well as major challenges to the nation's health-care systems. The Centers for Disease Control reported in 2009 that 34.4 percent of adults in Mississippi were obese and 17 percent of children ages 2-19 were obese. Ten years prior, the state's adult obesity rate was less than 30 percent.
"American society has become 'obesogenic,' characterized by environments that promote increased food intake, non-healthful foods and physical inactivity. Policy and environmental change initiatives that make healthy choices in nutrition and physical activity available, affordable and easy will likely prove most effective in combating obesity," the CDC reported.
What's less widely appreciated is how the poor health of our state's workforce passes along hidden costs to businesses.
"The more unhealthful our workforce becomes, the more our costs of health care increase costs which are already significant," said Duane O'Neill, chamber president and chief executive officer.
"Additionally, businesses lose productivity when employees are
|Contact: Jack Mazurak|
University of Mississippi Medical Center