Strategic Plan for NIH Obesity Research
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Strategic Plan for NIH Obesity Research

October 23, 2019


Obesity is a severe And increasingly severe Public health problem In the United States And across the world. In the U.S., roughly
one-third of adults Are considered obese, by our
current standards, And about 17 percent
of children. And the prospects of this
for what it will do In terms of health care, in
terms of human longevity, Are of deep concern. So this is a very high
priority, For the National Institutes of
Health to address With an effective
strategic plan. If the NIH has its mission To try to promote human health, Obesity is right in
the middle of that. So of all the organizations you can think of Probably NIH appears on that very short list Of the most important ones to tackle this problem. And we embrace that. And aim to try to live up
to that responsibility By promoting excellent science That gives rigorous results That then can be
applied to the public. I think some people look at the obesity problem And say, well, you know, It’s just because people
eat too much And don’t get enough exercise, So what’s the
science here? Well, there’s a
lot of science. And a lot of things that
we could learn more about In a way that would help
the situation Beyond simply wagging
fingers at people And telling them to behave. The strategic plan is
rather sweeping In its set of goals. Going all the way from basic science understanding Of what are those signals, That actually trigger hunger And satiety, And also exactly What are those genetic influences That play a role in the
tendency towards obesity. And what about the microbes, That may be playing
a role as well. But it goes much
further than that, To questions about
the environment. What influences there that
we know about, Or don’t know about, are also
triggering the risk Of obesity. But it focuses quite
heavily, then, On interventions. How do you design trials
with creative new ideas About how to prevent
or treat obesity. And then, once you’ve
identified Possible strategies, how do you
develop an approach To find out whether they
work in the real world? Because a clinical trial
under very closely Controlled circumstances
is exciting If it gives you a good result, But it doesn’t guarantee that That’s something you can
apply to millions of people In a less controlled situation. That’s part of
NIH’s job, too. Is to look at that kind of
implementation question, And that’s very much
part of this plan. Obesity has many Health effects that are potentially quite serious Most notably diabetes. That the very rapid rise
in the incidence Of so-called type 2 Adult-onset diabetes Is largely attributable to
the epidemic of obesity. The fact that this
disease, which we used to call Adult-onset diabetes Now is turning up in kids Who are nine or ten or
11 years old, Because of obesity, Is truly frightening. ‘Cause diabetes has a wide range of long-term effects, In terms of blindness, In terms of kidney failure, In terms of heart attacks, Strokes, Amputations. That’s probably the most
obvious and immediate effect Of obesity but there are many others as well. Obesity also predisposes, Obviously, to lots of musculoskeletal problems In terms of joints, That get worn down. The need for joint replacements. It predisposes to heart
attacks, To strokes. It predisposes to cancer In ways that are actually quite puzzling. The National
Institutes of Health Is our nation’s investment In biomedical research, To try to understand the
causes of disease, And theways to prevent
and treat. Obesity is a very
significant cause Of current illness
in our country, And becoming more
significant all the time. The National Institutes of
Health is determined To take the resources
that we’ve been given By the taxpayers And learn everything we can About this epidemic In order to turn it around. We aim to be no less than
completely innovative, Ambitious, bold
and creative In generating the evidence That we need to
get the answers That will lead to a
better future.

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