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ETSU researchers secure NIH grant to study childhood obesity risk factors

Contributed • Aug 16, 2019 at 4:13 PM

Researchers at East Tennessee State University recently received a two-year, $148,000 grant through the National Institutes of Health Small Grant Program to study childhood obesity.

“Our proposed study will significantly extend the current knowledge about the risk of and the pathways to childhood obesity,” said Dr. Liang Wang, principal investigator and associate professor in the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology in ETSU’s College of Public Health.

Wang and his fellow investigators (Dr. Arsham Alamian from the College of Public Health’s Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology and Dr. Diana Morelen from the Department of Psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences) are examining the longitudinal interplay of key family and individual risk factors on predicting the development of obesity from childhood through adolescence.

“Findings from this study will help design innovative interventions that are directed not only at children’s diet and exercise levels, but also at family contexts and child-rearing practices,” Wang said. “Hence, our study will have important policy and clinical implications.”

In addition to this study, Wang has authored many papers on obesity and has honed in on this public health challenge through the establishment of several nonprofit organizations.

He is the founder and president of the International Chinese Nutrition Young Scholar Network, which consists of approximately 3,000 global scholars, practitioners, students, and other professionals in nutrition sciences, obesity and health care fields. The organization supports young scholars’ career development, interdisciplinary collaboration, and improvement of public health in China and worldwide.

During the spring 2019 semester, Wang spent his sabbatical at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Department of Nutrition working with Drs. Frank Hu and Qi Sun for research projects with focus on obesity and nutrition epidemiology.

Wang is also the founder and president of the Institute of Health Education and Lifecourse Promotion and serves as board director with the China Health Policy and Management Society.

His research interests include obesity, nutrition epidemiology, and health education and promotion. He has published almost 100 articles in a variety of scientific journals and book chapters in the field. He received the North American Chinese Society for Nutrition Outstanding Leadership and Service Award in 2016, the Dean’s Special Recognition Award for University Leadership from Faculty Senate in 2017, the Dean’s Special Recognition Award for Service on the Faculty Council at ETSU in 2017, and the ETSU College of Public Health Foundation Service Award in 2018. He was nominated for ETSU Distinguished Faculty Award for Service in 2019.

To learn more about the ETSU College of Public Health, visit www.etsu.edu/cph. To find out more about the ICNYSN, visit www.icnysn.org.