New Center For Health Behaviors Research Officially Opens In Roanoke

The Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute Center for Transformative Research on Health Behaviors held its grand opening on Sept 27. Scientists will study how lifestyle diseases, such as obesity and diabetes, are affected by human behavior.

Leonard Epstein, the nationally renowned creator of the “Traffic Light Diet,” knows how to take an old approach and make it into something new.

In the 1970s, he made the most of the near-universal understanding of how red means stop, green means go, and yellow means caution, and used the color scheme to create an easy-to-follow diet for overweight children.

The man who created the Traffic Light Diet and introduced people to other now well-known behaviors — like how limiting TV viewing helps fight childhood obesity – came to Roanoke last week to help formally open the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute Center for Transformative Research on Health Behaviors.

On Sept. 27, at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute VTCRI Executive Director Michael Friedlander officiated at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the center at 1 Riverside Circle that also featured the center co-directors — Warren Bickel, the Virginia Tech Carilion Behavioral Health Research Professor, and Matthew Hulver, the head of the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Scientists at the new research center will tackle the threat of lifestyle diseases — medical conditions such as obesity and diabetes — that are caused or aggravated by a person’s own behavior. Epstein’s public lecture highlighted the need for a better understanding of lifestyle diseases, as well as the benefits that can arise from studying behavior.

A Distinguished Professor in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo, Epstein told the story of how basic behavioral science has been used to create innovative approaches to military problems, animal training, developmental disabilities, and drug addiction.

In addition, he examined the advantages of being open to new approaches to problems, especially in the creation of new technology that we use every day.