UAlberta researcher to lead national team investigating severe pediatric obesity

Team grant will fund seven studies over five years.


A new team grant to investigate severe obesity in children and their families is being led out of the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry. The grant is worth $1.6 million over five years and will be overseen by principal investigator Geoff Ball, an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics and clinical director of the Stollery Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Centre for Weight and Health.

“There are a lot of people doing research on obesity in kids across the country, but there are relatively few working on projects related to severe obesity,” says Ball. “We know through the literature and our own clinical practice that severe obesity is resistant to most therapies. So we need to think creatively in how we provide family-centred models of care that are also effective at improving health and well-being.”

The grant will run through October of 2019, with plans for seven studies looking at issues related to severe pediatric obesity. Research efforts will come from collaborators at the University of Alberta, University of Calgary, University of British Columbia, McMaster University, University of Ottawa and Sick Kids Hospital/University of Toronto.

According to Ball, about 30 per cent of children and youth in Canada are considered overweight or obese. It’s unknown how common severe obesity is in Canada, so this statistic represents a basic question his team will answer through their research efforts. Other studies will examine eating behaviour, metabolic health risks, predictors of treatment initiation and families’ recommendations for improving health services for children with severe obesity and their families. In addition, two novel interventions will be tested, which include evaluating innovative Internet and home-based models of care.

“This is a complex issue that isn’t going to be resolved anytime soon. In the health-care system, we need to do a better job of helping children and families to manage severe obesity. Our team is really well suited to advance our understanding of severe pediatric obesity.”

Funding for the team grant was provided by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions, the Canadian Obesity Network, and the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.