Childhood obesity expert to head UB Department of Social and Preventive Medicine

Release Date: November 15, 2013

Youfa Wang.

Wang (above) says his interest in childhood obesity stems from his concern for the vulnerability of children. Credit: Douglas Levere

“Children need care and support and they need adults who can make a difference in their lives and help guide them. I want to act in that role, not just for my own children, but for children worldwide.”
Youfa Wang, MD, PhD, chair of social and preventive medicine
University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Nutritional epidemiologist Youfa Wang, an internationally recognized expert in childhood nutrition and obesity, has been named professor and chair of the University at Buffalo Department of Social and Preventive Medicine in the School of Public Health and Health Professions.

Wang comes to UB from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where he founded and directed the Johns Hopkins Global Center on Childhood Obesity. He also served as an associate professor in the departments of International Health, Epidemiology, and Health, Behavior & Society, with adjunct appointments in the School of Medicine.

His research, which focuses on nutritional epidemiology and child nutrition and growth, has advanced understanding of the global childhood obesity epidemic, the assessment of childhood obesity and the influences of dietary intake on risks of chronic diseases in the United States and worldwide.

He has published extensively on the global trends and causes and interventions for childhood obesity, the impact of diet on chronic diseases, and health disparities.

Over the past 12 years, Wang’s research has received more than $23 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), including three NIH research project (R01) grants and a center grant. His work also has been funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other agencies.

He currently is principal investigator on two NIH-funded, systems-oriented studies of childhood obesity, and the principal or a key investigator on more than 10 ongoing research projects in the United States, China and other international settings.

Lynn T. Kozlowski, dean of the School of Public Health and Health Professions, calls Wang “an exciting addition to the faculty and leadership of UB. Childhood obesity is a serious problem around the world, and Professor Wang is at the forefront of global action on this issue.”

Kozlowski points out that in 2011, with a five-year, $16-million NIH center grant and funding from Johns Hopkins and other key institutions, Wang established and led the Johns Hopkins Global Center on Childhood Obesity, which continues to serve as a resource for researchers worldwide in their efforts to prevent childhood obesity and non-communicable chronic diseases.

More than 50 well-established investigators from over 30 leading U.S. and international institutions are involved in this ambitious program.

“He also has a history of developing collaborative, interdisciplinary research and training programs, and a major research and training center,” Kozlowski says, “and I expect that he will continue to do that here and prove a valuable collaborator, both inside and outside of our school."

Wang continues to conduct research on chronic diseases, health disparities and lifestyle, and global health through national surveys and longitudinal data analysis, as well as intervention studies.

“I’m very excited about the collegiality and spirit of collaboration among colleagues at UB,” says Wang, “and the many wonderful opportunities, including the UB 2020 initiatives and the strong support from the university and state for faculty, staff and students on research, training and innovation. There seem to be so many exciting areas and programs for future development.”

He says his interest in childhood obesity has been part of his research for 17 years and stems from his concern for the vulnerability of children, especially children in susceptible populations.

“Children need care and support,” he says. “And they particularly need adults who can make a difference in their lives and help guide them. I want to act in that role, not just for my own children, but for children worldwide.”

Wang has served on many national and international expert panels and review committees, often holding leadership positions. These include more than 20 NIH and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant-review committees, a World Health Organization expert committee that helped develop a new international growth standard, and the International Obesity Task Force.

Wang is an associate editor of four international scientific journals and has published more than 140 articles, among them 120 peer-reviewed papers, some of which have been cited by fellow researchers more than 1,000 times.

Wang received his MD from Beijing Medical University (which later merged with Peking University), an MS in epidemiology from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College, and a PhD in nutritional epidemiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

In addition to his American university appointments, he has been an adjunct professor at three major Chinese research institutes in the Peking University School of Public Health, the Fudan University School of Public Health and the Xi’an Jiaotong University School of Medicine.

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