July 8-9, 2008
The Demographic and Behavioral Sciences Branch of the NICHD, the NICHD Obesity Research Strategic Core, the NIH Office of Disease Prevention, and the NIH Division of Nutrition Research Coordination are sponsoring a workshop on July 8-9, 2008 to discuss what social science can bring conceptually to the study of obesity and how best to conceptualize obesity in social science research. This interdisciplinary workshop focuses on family feeding as a case study for this discussion. It will have three sessions; in each, an empirical presentation by an obesity researcher (who may or may not be a social scientist) will be followed by two theoretical responses by social scientists (who may or may not be obesity researchers), followed by open discussion by a small group of participants. For example, a presentation on food decision-making will be followed by responses from an economist on within-family decision-making about resources and a sociologist on the importance of considering segregation and income inequality when looking at communities. The workshop will be co-chaired by John Cawley of Cornell University and Tom Glass of Johns Hopkins University, who together will write a synthesis paper for an interdisciplinary journal.
This workshop is part of a larger NICHD initiative to encourage a multi-level approach to research on obesity. Obesity research deals inherently with human behavior, but human behavior in the extant obesity literature is often conceptualized solely at the level of the individual. Although research explicitly addressing social and environmental antecedents has grown rapidly in recent years, it has not fully incorporated the theories and methods of the social sciences. The social sciences address the mechanisms that connect individuals to groups, from families to communities to societies, and mediate the effect of the macro- and meso-environments on individual behavior. A deeper understanding of these mechanisms has the potential to contribute to new intervention and policy approaches to reducing obesity.
This workshop will encourage social scientists to think more about the causes of obesity and to think more creatively about the processes that impact it. It will also encourage obesity researchers to broaden their work to examine the social, economic, institutional and cultural mechanisms that have driven trends in obesity. Cross-talk between social scientists and researchers from other disciplinary backgrounds will enhance our understanding of the obesity phenomenon as well as our ability to generate sustainable solutions.
We have limited the size of the workshop because we intend for the event to resemble an intimate discussion group. However, the influence of the meeting should go beyond the immediate participants.
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