LSU Health New Orleans Newsroom

Sothern Shares Expertise with a Worldwide Audience of Public Health Professionals

children plaing outside

Tulane University Prevention Research Center and Center of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health didn’t have to go very far to find the best expert to present a webinar on childhood obesity for the American Public Health Association. Melinda Sothern, PhD, CEP, Professor of Public at LSU Health New Orleans School of Public Health, is one of the world’s foremost authorities on the causes, management and prevention of obesity in children.

Sothern has conducted groundbreaking research and developed successful and manageable prevention initiatives that can be used to guide both future research and current practice. She has been in demand for the better part of the past 30 years, sharing her expertise with everyone from colleagues, the medical community and students to families and national and international media.

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“Childhood obesity prevalence rates have steadily risen throughout the last several decades,” notes Sothern. “Obesity in children has significant short-term and long-term health impacts.”

More than 400 registered from places like New York, Arkansas, Utah, Texas, Illinois and Canada. The webinar also drew interest from those unable to attend live, including public health professionals from Australia and a number of other countries. They will watch the webinar now available at this link

Dr. Melinda Sothern
Sothern described the development of obesity in children and protective factors that give some kids an advantage in managing weight as they grow. She identified targets for intervention as well as practical guidelines for prevention and management of childhood obesity in the family home.
family dinner
“Early healthy feeding practices, such as breastfeeding, delaying solid foods, and unstructured play time are absolutely required for infants, toddlers and preschoolers to lower risk for obesity and related chronic disease,” Sothern stresses. “Overweight adolescent females, who are about to enter child-bearing years, should be a primary target for healthy diet and physical activity interventions. Establishing healthy family routines, such as dining as a family, adequate sleep, breakfast and family fitness activities are associated with a lower risk for developing obesity later in life.”
Questions focused on maternal health and effects on the baby later in life. Of particular interest was information on excess maternal weight and infant risk for obesity and diabetes and the negative effects of maternal tobacco use and second hand smoke in the home on the risk for obesity in children. There was also interest in the recent research showing that inadequate sleep – less than 10.5 hours a night – leads to a higher risk for obesity in children.

“It was a great way to reach a lot of interested public health professionals worldwide,” Sothern said. “I appreciated the opportunity to share the scientific evidence, my years of experience and knowledge with professionals who are actively working with children and families toward preventing and managing obesity because I want all children to have the chance to play outdoors and have access to healthy foods so that they may reach their potential, be healthy and happy.”