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By Richard Asinof
PROVIDENCE – Rena R. Wing, director of the Weight Control & Diabetes Research Center at The Miriam Hospital, has received the Lifetime Achievement award from the American Psychology Association for her pioneering work in obesity research.
Wing, who is a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, received her award at the association’s 120th annual convention in Orlando, Fla. on Aug. 2.
Wing’s contribution to the fight against obesity is the development of behavioral approaches to help overweight individuals – including those at risk for obesity-related health problems like diabetes and heart disease – lose weight and improve their health.
As principal investigator of the Diabetes Prevention Program, a major research study conducted at 27 clinical centers across the nation, Wing and her colleagues provide the strongest proof to date of the health benefits of weight loss. They demonstrated that behavioral programs focused on modifying diet and exercise, are more effective at preventing diabetes than drug treatments. This intensive lifestyle intervention program – which Wing developed – is currently available throughout the country at YMCAs and many medical centers.
Wing also co-founded the National Weight Control Registry, the largest prospective study of more than 10,000 people who have lost significant amounts of weight and kept it off for long periods of time. The registry, established in 1994, helps researchers better understand the “secrets” to their success and provides clues to the habits and behaviors of individuals who have successfully maintained a long-term weight loss.
Currently, she is chairman of Look AHEAD (Action in Health and Diabetes), a 14-year NIH clinical trial of weight loss in 5,000 adults with type 2 diabetes. She is also principal investigator on a number of federally funded studies looking at weight loss in various contexts, including the association with sleep, preventing weight gain in young adults and developing innovative Internet-based program to improve adherence to behavioral weight loss interventions.