2002 Public Health Symposium

2002 symposium logo

The symposium was held on Monday, September 30, 2002 at the University of Michigan Power Center for the Performing Arts.

2002 Symposium Overview

There have been great strides in improving the health of the public over the past 100 years. Prevention of the spread of infectious disease, protection against environmental hazards, reduction of accidents and injuries, heightened response to disasters, increased quality and accessibility of health services and promotion of healthy behaviors are evidence of public health success. During the past two decades, however, one of the health goals for the nation has steadily headed in the wrong direction. Overweight and obesity are increasing steadily and have been grouped as one of the Leading Health Indicators in Healthy People 2010, the nation's health objectives for the first decade of the 21st century.

Many people believe that overweight and obesity are personal problems related to concern about body shape, body image and appearance. However, the consequences of overweight and obesity are a health burden that will affect the whole nation. Overweight and obesity are risk factors for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and several forms of cancer. The health burden will be felt in increased premature death and disability, increased health care costs, lost productivity, and increased stigmatization or discrimination. For the majority of people, obesity and overweight are a result of excess energy (calorie) consumption and/or inadequate energy expenditure (physical activity). Although many consider dealing with overweight and obesity a personal responsibility, the magnitude of the problem indicates a need for a much wider sharing of responsibility. The current environment in our nation provides an abundance of inexpensive food, available quickly and at any time of day. At the same time, technology has created a work/home/leisure situation that excludes the need for heavy manual labor and high-energy expenditure activities.

The 5th Annual Public Health Symposium provides a setting for examination of issues related to the current concern with overweight and obesity. Measurements used for determining overweight and obesity, surveillance of populations for determining the prevalence of overweight and obesity, and the health outcomes from overweight and obesity are topics that must be explored for both scientific validity and social impact. The possibilities for intervening to alleviate the overweight and obesity problem include environmental change, policy change and actions at the national, community and personal levels. Participants in this symposium will have an opportunity to examine multiple parts of a complex public health problem.

For a current discussion, see the Time Magazine September 2, 2002 issue cover story: What Really Makes You Fat? and Weighty Dilemma which includes links to The Case for Low Carbs and The Case for Low Fat.

The 5th Annual Symposium is also a celebration and honoring of the achievements of Dr. Eugene Feingold. Dr. Feingold has considered many different complex public health problems during his career, and it is fitting that he is being honored during this symposium.

Dr. Feingold, PhD, JD, is Professor Emeritus of Health Management and Policy at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. He is a past president of the American Public Health Association and past chair of the board of directors of the Michigan League for Human Services. Dr. Feingold is a member of the boards of directors of M-CARE, the University of Michigan managed care organization, and The Corner Health Center, a medical care and health education center for adolescents in Ypsilanti, Michigan. During his tenure in Health Management and Policy, Dr. Feingold was chair of the department and taught about the politics of health care. He was also the acting dean and associate dean of the Rackham Graduate School. Dr. Feingold received his PhD in politics from Princeton University, and after his retirement from the School of Public Health, received his JD from the University of Michigan. He is a past member of the State of Michigan Medical Care Advisory Council and a past consultant to the Michigan Governor's Task Force on Access to Health Care. He has also been a member of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary's Council on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. His published work includes a book on Medicare and articles on health care reform, national health insurance, Medicaid, comprehensive health planning, neighborhood health centers, and racial discrimination in housing.

Symposium Objectives

  • Identify the mutuality and synergy of disciplines within the School of Public Health as we consider the obesity epidemic as a current public health problem
  • Identify the broad spectrum of disciplines that must be brought together to reverse the current obesity epidemic
  • Identify the cultural issues relating to obesity
  • Identify the human behavior issues relating to obesity and the difficulty in changing human behavior
  • Identify the scientific background (genetic, physiologic, metabolic) of obesity
  • Identify the consequences and impacts of this public health issue on our professional endeavors
  • Identify some of the newest thinking and research endeavors in conquering the obesity epidemic.