Villanova University College of Nursing Develops New Center to Combat Obesity

The MacDonald Center for Obesity Prevention and Education answers important call to action on an escalating worldwide health crisis

Funding provided by the Take Shape for Life and MacDonald Family foundations

Obesity rates in the United States have reached epidemic proportions.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese and 17 percent of children and teens (ages 2-19) are obese. In response to this health crisis, the College of Nursing at Villanova University has established the MacDonald Center for Obesity Prevention and Education to foster the development of healthy lifestyles and behaviors among Americans through the education of health professionals and agencies, community groups and the public.

The rise of obesity and its associated medical co-morbidities – including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers – has led to a call to action from all segments of society, including health professionals, educators, government agencies, community planners, politicians and the food industry. Combating the escalation in obesity demands a parallel increase in educational efforts.

With funding by the Take Shape for Life and MacDonald Family foundations, the MacDonald Center for Obesity Prevention and Education includes national experts on obesity advising on the latest developments in combating this epidemic. Through the united expertise of nurses, registered dietitians and other health professionals, the Center will mobilize strategic actions to address the obesity epidemic and serve as a model for the promotion of healthy weight management, obesity prevention and intervention through education. Housed within the College of Nursing in Driscoll Hall, the Center’s official opening is slated for Oct. 6, 2011 at 4:30 p.m. President of the American Dietetic Association (ADA), Sylvia Escott-Stump, MA, RD, LDN, will deliver the keynote address at the opening.

The positioning of this new Center within the University’s College of Nursing is distinctive and significant.  Due to the role of nurses in the care and education of the public and their frequent opportunities to interact with diverse populations, they have the potential to make a key contribution in addressing this important world-wide health issue. Among the Center’s goals are the creation of evidenced-based programs in obesity education and obesity management, including continuing education for health professionals; partnerships with health agencies and corporations for customized employee programs; programs with Philadelphia-area schools and communities; and partnerships within the Villanova University community aimed at keeping the campus healthy.

Funding from the foundations was initiated by Col. (Ret.) Bradley “Brad” T. MacDonald, ’71, co-founder of Take Shape for Life and executive chairman of the Board of Medifast, Inc. (Baltimore, Md.). MacDonald is a retired U.S. Marine Corps Reserve colonel – having served 28 years – and a former Augustinian who credits his education at Villanova for his success as an executive. (Note: Villanova University is one of only two Augustinian institutions of higher education in the country.)

“The Augustinians have had and continue to have a major impact on my life,” MacDonald said. “Dr. Louise Fitzpatrick and her staff at Villanova’s College of Nursing share the same Augustinian values in building a community of nurses and health-care professionals that can have a positive impact on the lives of thousands of professionals and paraprofessionals who look to universities for leadership in examining and educating their students on the major health issues of our day.”

“The generosity of the Take Shape for Life and MacDonald Family foundations addresses a critical health concern and has the potential to improve public health through education,” said M. Louise Fitzpatrick, Ed.D., R.N., FAAN, Connelly Endowed Dean and Professor. “The Center’s programs will provide for interdisciplinary collaboration and enhance the capacity of nurses to implement effective strategies for prevention and health promotion.”

The Center will be led by its new director, registered dietitian Denice Ferko-Adams, M.P.H., R.D., L.D.N., who brings more than 20 years of clinical, community and worksite experience to the role. Integrating her experience and passion for wellness and nutrition with a master’s degree in public health, Ferko-Adams is a national expert and a leader in the 75,000-member American Dietetic Association, receiving the 2009 ADA Excellence in Practice Award in Business and Consultation in recognition of her pioneering efforts in worksite wellness. As president of her consulting company, Wellness Press, Ferko-Adams developed, implemented and evaluated weight, health and fitness campaigns for clients including Air Products, Bethlehem Steel Corporation, BMW of North America Harley Davidson and Lehigh University.

“I am excited to help build a model center that will make a positive, lasting impact to improve our nation’s most preventable health problem: obesity,” said Ferko-Adams.  “In adults and in children, the rise in obesity is linked to a rise in the prevalence of both diabetes and heart disease.  It is commendable that Villanova University’s College of Nursing recognizes and strongly supports the significance of obesity prevention and education as solutions.”

Click here to find out more about the MacDonald Center for Obesity Prevention and Education.

The Villanova University College of Nursing, established in 1953, is a nationally recognized premier nursing program under Catholic Augustinian auspices with a mission to create a synergy between compassion and clinical excellence. Designated a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education by the National League for Nursing, the College provides a values-based undergraduate education grounded in the liberal arts and sciences that prepares students to assume positions as productive, ethical, and socially responsible citizens and leaders providing care in clinical and community settings. Its reputation is solidified by its rigorous, top-ranked graduate program to prepare advanced practice nurses, administrators and nurse educators; its environment for faculty and student scholarship; its respected continuing nursing education program and the leadership contributions of its students, faculty and alumni in nursing and health care around the world. Click here for more information.

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others.  There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's five colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing and the Villanova University School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them. Click here for more information.