Today, Governor Bobby Jindal and Pennington Biomedical Research Center announced the new Childhood Obesity and Diabetes Research Program at Pennington's Baton Rouge-based campus and opened a newly renovated space for the program's activities, the Translational Research Clinic for Children (TReCC). The Jindal Administration provided $6.4 million in funding for the renovated building that houses the new research clinic.
Pennington Biomedical's Translational Research Clinic for Children will informally be known as "the TReCC" and offers a youth-friendly environment for children and adolescents to participate in research studies aimed at improving health and reducing the incidence of childhood obesity. The clinic will educate children on the importance of physical activity and nutrition, while conducting behavioral and pharmaceutical research studies. Governor Jindal and Pennington Biomedical officials said the new center is important because childhood obesity is reaching epidemic proportions in many countries, including the United States. In Louisiana, nearly 50 percent of children are overweight or obese.
Obesity predisposes adolescents to "adult onset" diabetes, a condition that appears harder to control in young people than in adults, and if left inadequately treated, can lead to significant complications such as blindness, kidney disease, heart disease and nerve problems. Research has also shown that obesity during childhood is highly predictive of future health outcomes in adulthood. Governor Jindal said these were driving factors for the state and Pennington Biomedical in making the prevention and management of childhood obesity a top healthcare priority.
The $6.4 million investment for the new research clinic brings the total funding provided by the Jindal Administration since 2008 to $70 million. The funding for the TReCC has allowed Pennington Biomedical to retain 19 direct jobs for pediatric studies, and the investments are expected to create more jobs in the future as grants are obtained.
Governor Jindal said, "This new pediatric program and research clinic will provide access to cutting edge child obesity and diabetes health resources that are currently not available in Louisiana. The new clinic will go a long way toward improving the nutrition of our children and it will help them live fuller and happier lives. This investment in Pennington Biomedical is not only an investment in research; it is a continued investment in a healthier Louisiana. That's why we've dedicated over $70 million to Pennington Biomedical's efforts since 2008, creating a new era of growth and research for Pennington Biomedical and our efforts to improve nutrition for our families."
Pennington Biomedical Research Center Executive Director William Cefalu, M.D. said, "This program allows us to extend our expertise and proven leadership in obesity and diabetes research to tackle the childhood obesity epidemic. We are working with our fellow LSU campuses and partners in the community and state to create an integrated childhood obesity research and diabetes program with outstanding physicians and scientists that will allow us to generate additional federal and private research funding. Collaboration is the only way we can address this issue on a state-wide level." Cefalu noted that the state's investment has already been leveraged significantly with more than $13 million in pediatric research funding and contributions dedicated to childhood obesity research.
LSU President F. King Alexander, Ph.D., noted that the new research clinic and program enhances LSU collaborations for children that include LSU's Ag Center, LSU Health Science Center in New Orleans, and the University Laboratory School. "This will allow Pennington Biomedical, as part of LSU, to provide leadership to the entire state on a topic that has enormous public health impact. Pennington Biomedical and all of LSU is about providing solutions to the state's workforce, scientific, social, and economic challenges. This research program will provide solutions for perhaps one of the most pressing health problems of our state and the nation."
Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert said, "Pennington Biomedical's new pediatric research facility and clinic will serve an invaluable role in providing the information we need to improve the health and wellbeing of our children and adolescents. We all have a part to play in improving our health, whether it is walking more, choosing healthier foods, or making improvements to our homes, schools and workplaces. Together we can build a healthy future for Louisiana's children."
Dr. Peter Katzmarzyk Ph.D., Associate Executive Director of Pennington Biomedical and the newly named Marie Edana Corcoran Endowed Chair in Pediatric Obesity and Diabetes, highlighted some of the important projects including a recently completed Pennington Biomedical study funded by the National Institutes of Health on identifying the best markers of abdominal obesity and future health risks among 400 children. In addition, Dr. Katzmarzyk is currently leading a 12-country childhood obesity research study of 6000 children to better understand the underlying determinants of the development of obesity.
Dr. Katzmarzyk said, "The formalizing of our Childhood Obesity and Diabetes Research Program and the opening of the TReCC are important landmarks in the history of Pennington Biomedical, as it will allow us to make significant contributions to improve the health of children across Louisiana, the United States and even the world," said Peter Katzmarzyk, Ph.D., Associate Executive Director of Pennington Biomedical and the newly named Marie Edana Corcoran Endowed Chair in Pediatric Obesity and Diabetes, the result of a $1 million commitment from Our Lady of the Lake to support this emerging program.
The Translational Research Clinic for Children features the following:
14,000 square feet of clinical space, located in the heart of Pennington Biomedical campus;
6 examination rooms for clinic assessment visits by physician scientists;
Room and instrumentation to measure metabolism in infants, the only one located in the United States;
Exercise room outfitted with child and adolescent-sized equipment, including treadmills, stationary bicycles and an observation room;
Activity room with child appropriate play equipment, rock wall climbing and adjoining outdoor playground equipment;
Demonstration kitchen with attached conference room for family nutrition and meal preparation instruction.
In addition to the clinic, Pennington Biomedical has partnered with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana for the Challenge for a Healthier Louisiana program aimed at tackling obesity. Additionally, Pennington Biomedical recently launched a clinical trial testing video game exercise for girls and is conducting a new pharmaceutical trial for pediatric diabetes.
For more information on Pennington Biomedical's Obesity and Diabetes Research Program for Children and the Translational Research Clinic for Children and its research studies and programming, call 225-763-3000 or go to www.pbrc.edu.