Paediatrics and Nutritional Sciences
The challenge of childhood obesity necessitates the combined efforts of different disciplines. Because children are influenced in the context of their families, cultures, communities and on a broader population level, appropriate strategies must be implemented across various domains. This is the thinking of Jill Hamilton, staff endocrinologist at the Hospital for Sick Children and head of SickKids’ Centre for Healthy Active Kids.
“The long-term health implications of raising rates of childhood obesity have been recognized globally,” says Hamilton. “More people around the world are engaging in solving this problem.”
“I think that with the increasing interest around child health and nutrition issues, there is a great opportunity for moving towards solutions at a much more rapid pace with many University and SickKids scientists and health care professionals coming together.”
The Centre for Healthy Active Kids (CHAK) promotes research into both prevention and treatment of childhood obesity. The scientists working at the Centre also try to learn more about the underlying factors that put people at risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other complications of excessive weight gain at a young age. More broadly, they also concentrate on positive effects of childhood well-being — such as healthy nutrition, less stress, more good sleep, and physical activity — for the long-term health of all children, irrespective of body weight.
Hamilton is excited that both The Joannah & Brian Lawson Centre for Child Nutrition (Lawson Centre) and CHAK will share resources and expertise for the benefit of all children.
“In my career, I’ve worked with people across many different groups. It is extremely helpful to interact with someone who is doing something a little bit different and has different insights. The synergy created is essential to advance progress in the field at a more rapid pace.”
In her own research, Hamilton focuses on two aspects of childhood obesity. She investigates mechanisms for metabolic risk such as diabetes, and factors responsible for weight gain in children. She also explores underlying biologic and psycho-social determinants of response to obesity treatment, with a goal to improve available obesity interventions.
“The prevailing recommendations for treating childhood obesity tend to be very general. Doctors and dieticians usually say: eat fewer calories, move more and you will lose weight. In principle this is true, but there are differences in patient-specific response to dietary interventions. We need to understand what interventions work better on an individual basis. How do we best assess and individualize treatment plans for a particular individual? This is what we need to figure out.”
Interactions with families in her practice drive all of Hamilton’s research. “I am clinical investigator and clinician at heart. The ability to take on these challenging problems in health and try to make a difference in the lives of my patients is really important to me.”
Hamilton also hopes to see childhood nutrition featured more prominently across the spectrum of health care education curricula. “In particular, we have to do a better job of teaching our future and current health care professionals about how to talk about weight and nutrition with children and their families in a way that is empathetic and helpful, so that this topic is integrated in a holistic way across the health care system.”
At a glance:
Jill Hamilton, MD
- Insulin resistance/beta cell secretion and type 2 diabetes
- Turner Syndrome
- Thyroid cancer
In the Media
- New SickKids initiative battling childhood obesity on numerous fronts (Toronto Star: April 30, 2014)
- Associate Professor, Departments of Paediatrics and Nutritional Sciences, University of Toronto
- Endocrinologist, Hospital for Sick Children
- Senior Associate Scientist, Physiology & Experimental Medicine, Research Institute, Hospital for Sick Children
- Director, Centre for Healthy Active Kids, Hospital for Sick Children
- Phone: 416-813-5115
- Email: email@example.com