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CAPS scholar Steven Stovitz, M.D. is a family physician and sports medicine specialist, and an assistant professor in the Medical School’s Department of Family Medicine and Community Health. His research is focused on improving the ability to identify children at highest risk for adult obesity, with a goal of contributing to the prevention and treatment of obesity.
Stovitz acknowledges that as a physician trained in sports medicine, it may seem odd that his research interests are in the realm of childhood obesity and public health. Yet, Stovitz and his colleagues are calling for the field of sports medicine to be at the forefront of the battle against childhood obesity by encouraging physical activity and healthy lifestyles. Stovitz completed his residency at the Greater Lawrence Family Practice Residency Program at Tufts University School of Medicine—the only family medicine residency program in the nation based in a community health center. Stovitz’s work in the community’s primarily Spanish-speaking population led to his interest in developing clinically useful methods for combating obesity and improving childhood risk assessment for obesity in adulthood.
His work in the CAPS program centers on the analysis of heights, weights, and body mass index (BMI) measurements of pre-pubescent children, and on the usefulness of BMI as a predictor of obesity in adulthood. Stovitz is working with data from the longitudinal CATCH study (Child and Adolescent Trial for Cardiovascular Health), which measured the heights and weights of 2,802 children in third grade and again in twelfth grade. “There’s an interesting issue when it comes to height and BMI,” explains Stovitz. “When you look at overweight adults, just as many are taller than average as are shorter than average. However, overweight children tend to be taller than average, and have a very high probability of becoming overweight adults.” Given that height-squared is in the denominator for the calculation of BMI, this poses many interesting research questions. In order to accurately identify and treat those children at highest risk for adult obesity, Stovitz and his team are currently working to assess the predictive value of BMI classification based on children of different heights.
Stovitz is working with his mentors to secure access to other large longitudinal data sets, and is excited at the prospect of securing substantial research time and the formal training necessary to become an independent investigator. As a CAPS scholar, Stovitz is provided 75 percent protected time to conduct research. As part of a collaborative team, Stovitz will be working with School of Public Health professors Robert Jeffrey, Ph.D., and John Himes, Ph.D., M.P.H.; with associate professors Mark Pereira, Ph.D. and Ellen Demerath, Ph.D.; and biostatistician Peter Hannan, MStat.
Steven Stovitz, MD, FACSM