Skip to main content

Obesity: From Biology to Policy

1200 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, DC

In this symposium, we will focus on causes and consequences of obesity, and discuss policy approaches to address this epidemic. Obesity is a major health concern, not only in the United States and other industrial nations, but also in the developing world. Over 78 million US adults are obese – a staggering 35% of the adult population. Obesity-related morbidities include stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer; and contribute to an estimated annual medical cost of over $145 billion in the US alone. Despite recognition of obesity as a worldwide epidemic, no country has achieved significant decreases in obesity prevalence in the past three decades. Importantly, emerging data reveal complex biological mechanisms underlying this disease, dispelling the stigmatizing notion that lack of self-control is the sole determinant of body weight. Recently identified neurological and socioeconomic associations require deeper understanding in order to design and implement effective policies for reducing obesity and comorbid disease burden. The objective of this symposium is to connect researchers, policy experts and health professionals, with the goal of exploring evidence-based approaches to address the obesity epidemic. 

7 Day, 10,000 Step Challenge
The symposium organizers challenge you to step on up! How many steps can you take in the week preceding the symposium? We challenge you to get 10,000 steps every day for 7 days in the week starting June 20th. You can log your steps using multiple devices – FitBit, Garmin, Jawbone, iPhone, Android, Withings, Misfit to name a few – and sync to Matchup. Sign up for the Step Challenge on Then join us at the Symposium on June 30 to see how you did!

Agenda (Updated May 11)


Registration Open



  • Affinity Group Chairs


Politics of Obesity


Coffee Break


Concurrent Lecture Sessions (Please Choose One)


A. Biological Determinants

  • Addiction and Obesity: Lex Kravitz, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (@LexKravitz)
  • Neuroendocrine Regulation: Monica Skarulis, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
  • Contribution of the Microbiome: Lita Proctor, National Human Genome Research Institute
  • Interdependence of Sleep and BMI: Nisha Aurora, Johns Hopkins Medicine

B. Socio-Environmental Determinants


Lunch (provided)


Global Focus on Obesity


Sugar-­Sweetened Beverage Taxation as Part of a Comprehensive Strategy to Prevent Obesity in Mexico


Tea Break


Moving the Needle on Obesity Policy

  • Built Environment
  • Behavior Change Intervention
  • Tackling Obesity through Public-Private Partnetships: the Devil you Know?: Richard Black, Quadrant D Consulting (@Foodlishness)
  • The Role of Public Advocacy: Margo Wootan, Center for Science in the Public Interest


Step Challenge Reveal

  • Big Data Affinity Group


Closing Words





Organized by the AAAS S&T Policy Fellows' Health Policy, Global Health, Big Data, NeuroPolicy, and Social Science Affinity Groups