Laura Anderson, PhD, MSc is an assistant professor at McMaster University and adjunct scientist at Child Health Evaluative Sciences, the Hospital for Sick Children. Dr. Anderson will be working on the Team ABC3 study: Prevalence and health care utilization of severe obesity in children accessing primary health care in Ontario. Twitter: @AndersonLauraN
How did you become interested in childhood obesity research?
As an epidemiologist, I am interested in childhood obesity since it may be one of the most important ‘epidemics’ of our time. Obesity is a complex condition and there is a lot that we still need to learn about who is at risk for becoming obese and what the long-term impact of obesity on public health is.
What are your specific research interests?
The overall aim of my research is to contribute to the prevention of chronic diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. I am particularly interested in research that investigates the impact of obesity in early life on later disease risk. For example, I am interested in knowing more about how obesity in early childhood affects the risk of adult-onset disease and whether we can modify this risk in childhood to prevent disease.
Can you describe your role on the research within Team ABC3?
I am working with Dr. Catherine Birken and Sarah Carsley to evaluate the definition of severe obesity and to estimate the prevalence of severe obesity in young children in Ontario.
What do you hope to gain from participating with Team ABC3?
I look forward to working with such a large team of experts in childhood obesity from across Canada. This team has brought together researchers from many different areas of science and I am excited to be part of such a diverse team from across Canada that is dedicated to such an important public health priority.
To date, what is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your own research on childhood obesity, and what is your biggest success?
The biggest challenge I have encountered is access to high-quality data. Although many people recognize the importance of childhood obesity, there are no national child obesity databases in Canada and few population-based surveys with standard measures are available. Further, infants and young children (<6 years) are almost always excluded from Canadian surveys.
One example of a success has been working with the TARGet Kids! research team to obtain high-quality measures of height and weight on more than 7000 children from the Toronto area. We are currently following these children over time to learn more about the patterns of growth and risk factors associated with obesity in early childhood.