Arnaldo Perez is a PhD candidate in the Department of Pediatrics in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta. As part of his graduate research, he will be working alongside Dr. Geoff Ball on the study titled: Predictors of treatment initiation for children with severe obesity referred for tertiary-level management of obesity.
How did you become interested in childhood obesity research?
With a background in psychology and as a researcher, I have always been interested in decisions and behaviors that either enhance or compromise individuals’ health. Obesity management in general and childhood obesity in particular are ideal areas to describe, understand, and facilitate behavioral changes in patients and healthcare providers. In many instances, decisions and behaviors are all we can change to reshape and improve the lifestyle of patients.
What are your specific research interests?
I am interested in patient engagement, which broadly defined, includes enrollment and retention in care, adherence to treatment, and maintenance of lifestyle changes. In my PhD research project I focus on enrollment which has been less explored than other forms of engagement. Despite several interventions being developed to prevent and treat obesity in children and adults, they are unlikely to bring positive weight and health outcomes unless patients enroll and stay in care. Given that enrollment rates in pediatric weight management are disappointing, ranging from 10 to 50 percent, it is critical to understand families’ decision to enroll and to develop effective methods of patient enrollment.
Can you describe your role on the research within Team ABC3?
I will be leading the study on predictors of enrollment in services for pediatric weight management. At this point, we are seeking ethics approval to gain access to quantitative data obtained via referral forms. As most studies on treatment initiation have focused on recruitment of patients to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, this particular study will help us determine enrollment rate in relation to weight management services and its demographic, anthropometric, and clinical predictors. The identification of these predictors will help us i) outline the profile of patients most and least likely to enroll in pediatric weight management and ii) better understand the decision to enroll in care.
What do you hope to gain from participating with Team ABC3?
As a new researcher in Canada I expect to gain more experience designing and conducting multi-site research projects, to learn from researchers with background in different disciplines, to enhance my professional network within and beyond academia, to actively participate in developing and implementing knowledge translation strategies, and to reinforce my commitment to enhancing the health and quality of life of children with obesity.
To date, what is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your own research on childhood obesity? Your biggest success?
To date, my biggest challenge has been becoming familiar with the two-way relationship between health research and heath care. I felt very comfortable producing knowledge until I came to Canada where the emphasis is increasingly placed on knowledge utilization to improve the health of Canadians. My biggest success has been feeling comfortable writing in English, although my supervisor, Dr. Geoff Ball, may think that a bit more practice may not be a bad idea. My jokes in English have also improved, so this may count as my second biggest success.
What is one (or more!) thing your Team ABC3 colleagues would be surprised to learn about you?
They may be surprised to learn that I am a regular candidate for yellow cards in soccer and I always leave the field thinking that the referee was not fair. So, I have come to the conclusion that perhaps my critical thinking stops working as soon as the whistle blows.