Building on 20 years of research investigating strategies for preventing and reducing childhood obesity, Dr. Judith Weber, Professor of Pediatrics in the College of Medicine, UAMS, received a $9.4 million award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to create a center for the study of childhood obesity located at Arkansas Children’s Research Institute. Called the Center for Childhood Obesity Prevention (CCOP), it is one of the NIH Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE), the first of its kind to be located at ACRI. In its first five years, a COBRE focuses on developing research infrastructure and providing junior investigators with formal mentoring and research project funding to help them acquire preliminary data to successfully compete for independent research grant support in the specific thematic area. Following the initial five-year award period, COBRE grants can be renewed for an additional two five-year periods for another $15 million.
The Center for Childhood Obesity Prevention has three core research units funded through the COBRE award, one in administration and scientific support, one in biostatistics and informatics, and another in metabolism, to support the junior investigators. Unique to the center is the direct involvement of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, which houses the state BMI data warehouse, as well as the Arkansas Department of Health, which sponsored the new Governor-supported Healthy Active Arkansas initiative.
The multidisciplinary Center for Childhood Obesity Prevention, led by Judith Weber, PhD, RD, strengthens ACRI’s obesity research capacity and creates mentoring pathways for emerging scientists focusing on pediatric obesity. This center at ACRI also serves as an anchor for the development of a comprehensive pediatric obesity program at Arkansas Children’s and enables Dr. Weber and her colleagues to better understand the origins of pediatric obesity, and lead to the development of interventions focused both on preventing and reducing obesity and associated complications such as hypertension and diabetes.
The Center focuses on developing research infrastructure around the theme of childhood obesity prevention and providing junior investigators with formal mentoring and research project funding to help them acquire preliminary data to successfully compete for independent research grant support around this theme.