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Pearson Lands Two National Leadership Appointments

Will Shape New Food Guidelines and Direct Heart Disease/Stroke Prevention Efforts

Friday, November 07, 2008

International heart and stroke prevention expert Thomas Pearson, M.D., Ph.D., has been tapped by two national organizations to lead efforts aimed at decreasing the incidence of two of the nation’s leading causes of death and disability: cardiovascular disease and stroke. Pearson is the Albert D. Kaiser Professor in the Department of Community and Preventive Medicine and Professor of Medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.

For the past three decades, Pearson has been a driving force behind the development of many of our nation’s policies and guidelines as they relate to heart disease and stroke. He has participated on dozens of policy panels for national organizations including The National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, the Institute of Medicine, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association.

This leadership experience played a key role in his recent election as chair-elect of the National Forum, an organization formed in 2003 by the American Heart Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to chart a course for the prevention of heart disease and stroke. The group seeks to implement the strategies outlined in the CDC’s landmark report, “A Public Health Action Plan to Prevent Heart Disease and Stroke,” first published in 2003, and one which Pearson helped to write. 

In the five years since its founding, the National Forum has been responsible for creating numerous policies in cardiovascular health promotion, and has worked to communicate the urgency and importance of preventing heart disease and stroke to both consumers and health care providers. The group also has established a framework to monitor the financial impact of heart disease and stroke on our nation, and developed ways to measure and evaluate progress in prevention and treatment efforts.

As a new member of the National Forum leadership team, Pearson will focus his attention on expanding the use of public health policies in combating stroke and heart disease.

"Any hope for a continued decline in our nation’s heart disease and stroke burden, at an affordable price to society, must include a population-based program targeting health behaviors outside of clinical medicine but well within the realm of public health," Pearson said.

The United States Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services also turned to Pearson for his expert advice in helping to shape the nation’s new dietary guidelines. Updated every five years, our nation’s dietary guidelines are aimed at informing both the general public and government policy makers on ways to improve the overall health of the American public through proper nutrition as well as to reduce the burden of disease and death related to public health problems such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other chronic illnesses. They also play a key role in directing food selection for public assistance programs including SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program formerly known as the Food Stamp Program), and the School Lunch and WIC Programs.

Along with a dozen other medical and scientific experts in dietary intake, human metabolism and behavioral change, Pearson will serve on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Following a review of the scientific literature and public discussions, the Committee will prepare an advisory report that will be used in setting the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The Committee already held its first meeting in late October. All meetings are open to the public, and meeting minutes and transcripts are available online.

In addition to his duties as chair and professor, Pearson serves as senior associate dean for clinical research at the University of Rochester Medical Center, and directs the Rochester Clinical and Translational Science Institute, as well as the Rochester Prevention Research Center. His major research interests are in the epidemiology and prevention of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, with a special focus in the international trends of coronary heart disease and stroke. He has published more than 300 articles in peer-reviewed journals, co-authored a dozen books and monographs, is a contributor to more than 30 book chapters, and is a frequent speaker at international and national conferences.

Pearson received his medical degree, doctorate and master’s degree in public health at The Johns Hopkins University, where he also completed residency training in preventive medicine and internal medicine and fellowship training in cardiovascular medicine and cardiovascular pathology. From 1988 to 1997, he was the Director of the Mary Imogene Bassett Research Institute in Cooperstown, N.Y. He also held the Clark Chair in Health Research and Professor of Public Health and Medicine at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

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