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Behavioural Eating Symposium tackles health and obesity challenges

How well do we understand the behaviours that lead to obesity? A Deakin-organised conference brings together a field of international experts.

Over-eating, food advertising and obesity prevention were among diverse and challenging range of eating-behaviour topics at a recent symposium hosted by the Deakin Lab for the Meta-Analysis of Research (DeLMAR).

Co-director of DeLMAR Professor Chris Dubelaar (Deakin Business School) says the two-day event brought together international researchers, industry and government representatives from a variety of disciplines to address contemporary eating-behaviour problems.

‘It was designed to bring together researchers from several different perspectives – such as nutrition, public health, marketing, and psychology – who all work in the same area of how to help people avoid over-eating.  The point is that each discipline has its own approach to the same problem.’

Organised by Prof. Dubelaar and Dr Emily Kothe (Deakin’s Faculty of Health), the symposium explored how different disciplines and institutions approached common problems and included international guests Professor Dame Theresa Marteau (Director, Behaviour and Health Research Unity, Institute of Public Health, University of Cambridge), Professor Emeritus Janet Polivy (Department of Psychology, University of Toronto), and Professor Emeritus C Peter Herman (Department of Psychology, University of Toronto).

Prof. Dubelaar says one of the highlights was how well the presenters complemented each other’s knowledge and expertise in the area of behavioural eating.

‘Specifically, every one of us learned something new from the presentations of the others around the room.  Another great highlight was the incredibly robust and vigorous scientific discussion.  There were different perspectives in the room, but arguments were supported with evidence and crafted around scientific principles, and were not focused on the individual.’

Launched only 12 months ago, DeLMAR bring together Deakin researchers who are involved with meta-analysis and research synthesis.

Confronting social and natural sciences research problems, DeLMAR has already organised two major conferences this year and has a strong focus on providing evidence-based knowledge that can inform policymakers.

Prof. Dubelaar says events such as Behavioural Eating Symposium are highly valuable because they highlight the importance of collecting evidence from multiple disciplines and from different perspectives.

‘Whether someone does a meta analysis, a meta synthesis, or a systematic review, these reviews each contribute to the advancement of knowledge that we need to solve difficult problems like obesity.’

One of the aims of the symposium was to produce a statement of goals and objectives to address common global problems and Prof. Dubelaar says it highlighted the need for researchers to work more closely with partners who are outside universities.

‘We feel that we are doing research that should be useful to governments and NGOs. One of the outcomes was that as a group, we noted that all obesity research assumes a causal link between interventions and obesity and currently this is not being actively tested.'

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