$50,000 award recognizes Dr. Thomas Robinson, a research pioneer who uses creative interventions to combat obesity.
Dr. Thomas Robinson, a Stanford University professor of Pediatric Medicine and a pioneer in using novel motivational techniques to combat childhood obesity, is the winner of the 2016 Bloomberg Manulife Prize for the Promotion of Active Health.
Dr. Robinson is being recognized for developing a unique research program that goes beyond looking at the root causes of obesity and other health-related conditions, by developing creative and sometimes unconventional interventions – from dance classes to environmental conservation courses – and measuring their impacts on diet, physical activity, weight loss and other barometers of health. The ultimate goal is to help children, adolescents and their families adopt healthier lifestyles, often as a side effect of doing something they enjoy for other reasons.
Among his more notable projects is one in which he introduced after-school dance classes to at-risk communities where children have been historically inactive. Involvement in the classes showed positive effects on participants’ cholesterol and insulin levels, and showed signs of slowing obesity, with the effects lasting over two years. In another project, focused on diet, university students who had taken classes that explored the environmental, ethical, labour, political and economic impacts of food and agriculture showed decreases in consumption of red meat and sugary snacks.
“In your career, you only have a limited time in which to create change and to move research forward to have an impact on health,” says Dr. Robinson. “Prizes such as this one give investigators like me the support we need to push the boundaries of our research. The increased attention that comes with this award makes it easier to share the implications of my research with opinion leaders and others beyond the realms of science and public health.”
Dr. Robinson, MD, MPH, is the Irving Schulman, M.D. Endowed Professor in Child Health and Professor of Medicine at Stanford University. He is also Director of the Center for Healthy Weight at Stanford and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. In addition to his research and clinical practice, Dr. Robinson is a frequent appointee to expert and advisory panels for leading scientific and public health agencies, including the Scientific and Technical Advisory Network of the World Obesity Federation and the Clinical Obesity Research Panel of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
The Bloomberg Manulife Prize, which includes a CAD $50,000 research award, was established in 2011 by McGill University alumnus and Toronto-based investment manager Lawrence S. Bloomberg, C.M., O. Ont. MBA’65, and corporate sponsor Manulife to recognize researchers whose work is enhancing our understanding of how physical activity, nutrition or psychosocial factors influence personal health and wellbeing. The prize is housed at McGill’s Desautels Faculty of Management and administered by the McGill Centre for the Convergence of Health and Economics. A jury of distinguished academics judge applications for the Prize.
“With the awarding of this year’s Prize to Dr. Tom Robinson, McGill University continues to recognize researchers whose work is building awareness of the important links that exist between physical activity, healthy living and disease prevention,” says Isabelle Bajeux-Besnainou, Dean of the Desautels Faculty of Management. “Through his pioneering research program, Dr. Robinson is not only discovering novel ways to help stem the tide of life-threatening obesity among children and adults but is also ensuring that these discoveries are put into practice.”
Childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century. In Canada, the prevalence of childhood obesity has increased at an alarming rate: more than doubling in children and quadrupling in adolescents over the past 30 years. Obesity in childhood is associated with a wide range of serious health complications, including the premature onset of such life-threatening illnesses as diabetes and heart disease.
"The healthy choices we make today have a positive outcome on our long-term health and wellness. Learning how and why we should make those healthy choices is crucial at a young age for developing lifelong habits," says Marianne Harrison, President & CEO, Manulife Canada. "Manulife promotes the health and well-being of Canadians through corporate sponsorships and by providing products that encourage and reward healthy living, like Manulife Vitality.”
Since its inauguration, the Bloomberg Manulife Prize has gained the endorsement of prominent health organizations including The Canadian Cancer Society, The Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation, ParticipACTION Canada, The Canadian Diabetes Association, YMCA Canada and the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation.
Dr. Robinson will accept the Bloomberg Manulife Prize at a special ceremony in Toronto on Wednesday, February 15, 2017, where he will also speak about his research. This will be followed by a visit to McGill University in Montreal on Thursday, February 16.