INTR3050: The Global Obesity Epidemic


Over the past 80 years, humanity has seen an unprecedented rise in obesity to pandemic levels world-wide, costing hundreds of billions of dollars in healthcare costs in the United States alone1.  Despite its widespread impact, the science remains in its infancy and no feasible solutions exist.  Furthermore, although the impression of obesity on our psyche and society as a whole are undeniable, the very nature of obesity as a disease remains controversial. 

In this course, we will examine the root causes of obesity, including the pathophysiology, the complex environmental and behavioral causes, as well as the ethical, social and legal implications.  We will scrutinize the hurdles to controlling and preventing obesity, including cultural, economic, and agricultural influences, as well as the omnipresent role of the media.  The structure of this course will be through group discussions of different topics to gain a better understanding of the problem of obesity, as well as its impact on our society, and possible solutions.  Reading materials will be assigned weekly on UC Canvas, and will typically consist of a series of articles and video clips that will be assigned each week and reviewed as a group in class.  You will be expected to write a brief (1 page or less) reflection on the article, as well as answer any questions posted on UC Canvas about the article.  No article is perfect!  Discussions will include not only a reflection on interpretation of the writing, but also a critique of the paper.  You are also encouraged to comment on other’s writeups (which you will be able to view once you have submitted your own assignment).  This course is not a lecture, but a group led class.  I will only be there as a guide. 

In addition to our group discussions, there will be three projects – first will be a group visit to the “Teaching Kitchen”, where medical students demonstrate healthy and affordable meal preparation, from scratch to patients in French Hall (Nutrition sciences building, pending COVID19 pandemic guidelines/status at the time of the course).  If time allows, you will also be invited (but not mandated) to attend one session of the Lifestyle & Weight Management Clinic Group Visits (Virtually) – a medical group visit for patients who are looking to overcome or prevent obesity. *  The second project will be an individual or group exercise (students’ choice) of observing and documenting (through photography, videography, essay, poetry, painting, or any artform you choose) society’s biases against obesity.  For the final project, the class will be divided into groups based on background, with the goal of having each group well represented from different disciplines and interests.  The class will culminate in the presentation of a proposal by each group on dealing with a specific aspect of obesity at the end of the course.  The group may choose any form of presentation, including PowerPoint, video, or any other modality they see fit.

Past Offerings