Skip to main content

Four UT faculty members will participate in a Southeastern Conference symposium on tackling the nation’s obesity epidemic this fall.

Sarah Colby, assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition; Gene Fitzhugh, associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport Studies; Katie Kavanagh, associate professor in the Department of Nutrition; and Brynn Voy, associate professor in the Department of Animal Science in the UT Institute of Agriculture, will join peers from the thirteen other SEC institutions at the symposium in Atlanta from September 21 through 23. The conference is entitled Prevention of Obesity: Overcoming a 21st Century Public Health Challenge.

Topics will range from genetics to technology and media to environmental influences. The symposium is divided into eight sessions of formal presentations and includes keynote speakers and informal breakout sessions. It also will feature poster exhibitions and an SEC University Showcase.

“The states with the highest prevalence of overweight and obesity have universities that are part of the SEC,” said Hollie Raynor, UT associate professor of nutrition and UT’s SEC representative. “This symposium will provide the opportunity for faculty and students to share their research and enhance collaboration in the SEC to assist in preventing obesity, which is an important need in the Southeast.”

  • Sarah Colby will present about a community-based participatory research intervention to increase cooking skills and family mealtime to reduce childhood obesity. She is the principal investigator for the state of Tennessee on a five-state $2.5 million US Department of Agriculture federal grant for the iCook 4-H program. Through 4-H, extension and research partners help families learn to cook together, play together, and have positive meal experiences to get children to eat more fruits and vegetables and adopt healthy lifestyles.
  • Gene Fitzhugh will present about the how the built environment across the US influences physical activity and ultimately weight status, with special emphasis on adults living in the South. He is director of the UT Center for Physical Activity and Health, which is dedicated to helping people enhance their health, fitness, and quality of life. A physical activity epidemiologist, Fitzhugh conducts research focusing on the relationship of physical activity to obesity and other chronic diseases.
  • Katie Kavanagh will present about the early influences on weight status. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses related to maternal and child nutrition and is a co-investigator on a Maternal and Child Health Leadership and Training Program Grant. Her research focuses on infant and child feeding behaviors and the effects on growth. She also researches proper preparation of infant formula and ways to promote breastfeeding.
  • Brynn Voy will present about the physiology of obesity prevention. Her research focuses on the role that fat tissue plays in regulating an individual’s metabolism and predisposing him or her toward obesity or leanness. She is particularly interested in how diet and the environment regulate fat tissue development and shift an individual toward a greater risk for obesity as an adult.

For more information about the SEC symposium on obesity, visit the website.


Lola Alapo (865-974-3993,