The obesity crisis, like our nation’s waistlines, is big and getting bigger. Obesity rates have soared over the last wo decades: One-third of adults in the United States
and 17 percent of children are now obese, according to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Obesity is the No. 1 health challenge facing our country
right now,” says APA President Suzanne Bennett Johnson.
For that reason, she chose to honor two psychologists who
have devoted their careers to fighting obesity: Kelly D. Brownell,
PhD, director of Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy
and Obesity, and Rena Wing, PhD, professor of psychiatry
and behavior at Brown University, and director of the Weight
Control and Diabetes Research Center at the Miriam Hospital
in Providence, R.I.
“Brownell and Wing have each contributed greatly in
different ways,” says Johnson, one on the individual patient
level and the other on the public policy level. They will receive
the APA Award for Outstanding Lifetime Contribution
to Psychology and give a keynote address at the opening
ceremonies of the APA Annual Convention, Aug. 2–5, in
Peter Goldberg/Brown University
Proving people can change
Wing has spent her career helping her patients overcome
obesity. She’s widely known for developing behavioral
treatments for obesity and efforts to prevent the onset of
Type- 2 diabetes.
Perhaps her most important contribution to the field has
been acting as principal investigator of the Lifestyle Resource
Core of the Diabetes Prevention Program, a major research
study conducted at 27 clinical centers across the nation. From
1996 to 1999, Wing and her colleagues recruited more than
3,000 people with impaired glucose tolerance, a condition that
put them at high risk of developing diabetes. The investigators
randomly assigned participants to one of three groups: One
received the diabetes drug metformin plus minimal information
about diet and exercise, and a second received that same basic
information plus a placebo. The third group participated in an
intensive lifestyle intervention that Wing developed.
Participants in the lifestyle intervention met one-on-one with
coaches 16 times in the first 24 weeks, for lessons on effective
diet and exercise strategies. After the initial set of lessons, they
continued to meet with counselors at least once every two
months for ongoing motivational support. During the initial