$50,000 award recognizes research pioneer who screened for abdominal obesity and acted to prevent it
McGill University, in association with Manulife and the McGill Centre for the Convergence of Health and Economics (MCCHE), announced that Dr. Jean-Pierre Després, Professor at the Department of Kinesiology, Faculty of Medicine at Université Laval and pioneer in developing screening techniques for visceral obesity, is the winner of the 2018 Manulife Prize for the Promotion of Active Health.
Said Dr. Després, “I am honoured to receive this award and I hope that the Manulife Prize will help bring simple, but scientifically sound messages to the public and decision-makers regarding lifestyle, obesity and chronic societal diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”
Regarding what he hopes the visibility of this award will accomplish, Dr. Després said, “There is a major gap that remains between the science that my team and other groups around the world have produced and what is actually done in clinical practice. Hopefully, this recognition will help align the management and prevention of these chronic societal diseases with the latest scientific evidence.”
With over 30 years of experience, Dr. Després is recognized for being the first to suggest that individuals with visceral obesity (characterized by an excess accumulation of body fat in the abdominal region) are at the highest risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In line with these findings, he developed a novel approach to screen for visceral obesity. He determined that the combination of a high waist circumference with elevated blood triglycerides was predictive of an 85 per cent chance of being diagnosed with visceral obesity – a screening approach that has been widely accepted by the international medical community.
“Dr. Després’ work around the management and prevention of chronic societal diseases stresses the importance of living a healthy lifestyle and its positive outcome on our health and wellness,” says Richard Payette, President & CEO, Manulife Quebec. “Manulife promotes the health and well-being of Canadians by supporting physical activity and healthy-eating programs and initiatives and by providing products that encourage and reward healthy living, like the Manulife Vitality Program.”
Dedicated to transmitting cutting-edge medical research to the general public, Dr. Després has been a strong public advocate for the benefits of regular endurance training to combat visceral fat, highlighting the importance of a reduced waistline to improving patient health. Most recently, he has spearheaded with his colleagues a mobile fitness unit, Grand Défi Entreprise, which visits companies to assess the health and lifestyle of white and blue collar workers. Thus far, over 5,000 employees have benefitted from this program.
“With the awarding of the Manulife Prize to Dr. Després, McGill University and the MCCHE continue to promote research that is strengthening the connection between healthy living and economic prosperity” says Isabelle Bajeux-Besnainou, Dean of the Desautels Faculty of Management. “Through his impactful research, Dr. Després has not only established a transformative diagnostic approach, but is also ensuring that these discoveries are put into practice through community and government engagement, which is contributing to the overall well-being of society.”
The Manulife Prize for the Promotion of Active Health, valued at $50,000, was established to recognize researchers whose work is advancing understandings of how physical activity, nutrition or psychosocial factors influence personal health and wellbeing. The prize is made possible through the support of Manulife and is administered by the McGill Centre for the Convergence of Health and Economics (MCCHE) at the Desautels Faculty of Management.
Dr. Després, C.Q., PhD, FAHA, FIAS, is the Director of Research in Cardiology at Centre de recherche de l’Institut universitaire de cardiologie et de pneumologie de Québec; the Director of Science and Innovation at Alliance santé Québec; and the Scientific Director of the International Chair on Cardiometabolic Risk at the Université Laval. Dr. Després will accept the Manulife Prize at a ceremony in Montreal on Tuesday, April 10, where he will also speak about his research.