School of Education Will Lead New University of Pittsburgh Healthy Lifestyle Institute

[Press release published on behalf of University News.] The University of Pittsburgh has established an umbrella organization coordinating internal efforts to improve the health and wellness of society at large.

“Pitt is, in essence, marshaling its considerable and dynamic resources toward helping Americans live healthier and happier lives,” said John M. Jakicic, founding director of the new Healthy Lifestyle Institute and chair of the School of Education’s Department of Health and Physical Activity. “The institute harnesses the collective efforts of top researchers, clinicians and thought leaders throughout the Pitt community. Bringing these thoughtful minds together under the same umbrella to collaborate and share ideas will potentially make a substantial impact on the well-being of our society.”

Housed within Pitt’s School of Education, the institute aims to integrate health-related research endeavors from Pitt centers, departments, laboratories and related divisions. University officials envision the institute becoming a leader in the development of behavioral modification interventions, a resource for understanding how lifestyle factors impact health and a model for how universities can communicate internally.

The institute will develop new approaches for modifying lifestyle behaviors that detract from overall health. It will examine how biological factors, such as genetics, influence lifestyle behaviors as well as how these factors impact chronic diseases and negative health outcomes. The institute also will innovate institutional outreach approaches and training measures for health care professionals.

Key to the success of the institute’s mission will be the implementation of new initiatives to enhance research capacity. These initiatives — centers and programs to be installed within various schools — will bring new technologies into Pitt laboratories, improve understanding of biological influences in human behavior and foster collaborative efforts between Pitt and the broader community. Additionally, the institute will forge collaborative pursuits with nonprofit organizations and public schools throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania.

“The talent base here at the University of Pittsburgh is uniquely suited to address important and impactful clinical questions related to lifestyle factors and bring the type of national impact that we are envisioning,” said Jakicic. “Moreover, this Healthy Lifestyle Institute will put the University of Pittsburgh and the City of Pittsburgh in a position to respond rapidly and effectively to future areas of scientific and clinical need regarding the application of lifestyle approaches to improve health.”

As director, Jakicic will provide day-to-day leadership and oversight. An advisory board appointed by the dean of the School of Education will guide the institute’s direction, while an executive committee composed of Pitt administrators will provide governance.

The Healthy Lifestyle Institute, School of Education, and John Jakicic have been featured in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Business Times, and The Pitt News.