Denise E. Wilfley

Dr. Denise E. Wilfley, PhD

TEDx Topic: Turning the Tide on Childhood Obesity

Denise E. Wilfley, Ph.D. is an international authority in the etiology, prevention, and treatment of eating disorders and obesity, and has devoted her career to improving the lives and health of children and their families. She is the Scott Rudolph University Professor of Psychiatry, Medicine, Pediatrics, and Psychological & Brain Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis and has received over 20 years of continuous research funding from the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Wilfley takes an integrative approach to understanding the causes of both eating disorders and obesity. Her pioneering work at the intersection of eating disorders and obesity was integral to formal recognition of binge eating disorder and established the efficacy of interpersonal psychotherapy for addressing this problem. She has also transformed care for eating disorders by developing a population-based model for their prevention and treatment. She partners with universities across the nation to implement online screening and referral to tailored, evidence-based interventions, delivered online or in-person based on students’ symptoms. As part of this approach, Dr. Wilfley developed the first effective online programs for preventing and treating eating disorders and established innovative practices for training college therapists in evidencebased interventions.

Dr. Wilfley takes a multi-level approach to addressing the complex problem of obesity in children. Her family-based interventions for weight-related problems address not only physical but also psychosocial consequences of obesity, such as teasing and low social support. She has found that successfully maintaining healthy lifestyles in childhood involves family, peer, and community support. She collaborates with care providers, employers, policy makers, and transdisciplinary scientists to accelerate the adoption of evidence-based treatments in practice settings. In addition, she works at the state and federal levels to ensure the creation of policies conducive to wide-spread access to affordable, effective care. Dr. Wilfley also leads a program to train the next generation of scientists in the transdisciplinary research and advocacy skills necessary to address these critical problems into the future.

Dr. Wilfley has published over 200 scientific publications and received numerous awards for her research and advocacy. She has also held key leadership positions in organizations such as President of the Eating Disorders Research Society and Chair of the Pediatric Obesity Section of The Obesity Society, and is a fellow for several scientific organizations, including the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research and the Academy for Eating Disorders. She is also an Advisor to the American Academy of Pediatrics Institute for Healthy Childhood Weight and member of the American Psychological Association’s Guideline Development Panel for Obesity and the Research Advisory Committee for the National Eating Disorders Association. Her commitment to increasing access to evidence-based care at the state and national levels is further exemplified by her service as co-chair of the Subcommittee for Childhood Obesity for the State of Missouri’s Children’s Services Commission and as Vice Chair of the Missouri Eating Disorders Council. Through these efforts, Dr. Wilfley is working to create healthcare systems and communities where all children and their families have opportunities to lead vibrant, healthy lives.

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