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Stockton Kimball Honoree is Noted Childhood Obesity Expert

leonard epstein, phd

Leonard H. Epstein, PhD, internationally recognized expert in childhood weight control and family intervention

Published August 1, 2012

Leonard H. Epstein, PhD, has been honored with the 2012 Stockton Kimball Award for outstanding scientific accomplishment as well as significant service to the university.

This award is presented annually by the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences as part of its Faculty and Staff Recognition Awards celebration.

Expert in Weight Control, Family Intervention

“[Epstein] is one of the most creative and productive investigators in the field of behavioral medicine and nutrition.”
Suzanne G. Laychock, PhD
Senior associate dean for faculty affairs and facilities and professor of pharmacology and toxicology

The 2012 honoree is a SUNY Distinguished Professor of pediatrics and chief of behavioral medicine, as well as an internationally recognized expert in childhood weight control and family intervention.

For three decades, his research has shed light on the causes, prevention and treatment of childhood obesity, including mechanisms that regulate intake and energy expenditure in children.

“Dr. Epstein was one of the first to recognize not only the genetic aspects, but also the addictive association of food, in obesity,” says Suzanne G. Laychock, PhD, senior associate dean for faculty affairs and facilities and professor of pharmacology and toxicology.

“He is one of the most creative and productive investigators in the field of behavioral medicine and nutrition.”

Innovations Include ‘Traffic Light Diet’

Among several innovations, Epstein developed the Traffic Light Diet Plan to help families instill healthy eating habits in overweight children.

He also was the first researcher to demonstrate a relationship between childhood obesity and watching television and he pioneered the use of lifestyle exercise as a component of obesity treatment.

In addition, he was a member of the Kraft Scientific Advisory Board and was involved in developing the NuVal nutritional coding system, which assigns food scores based on positive and negative nutritional qualities.

Currently, Epstein is principal investigator (PI) or co-PI on five National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants. Some of these grants fund research exploring habituation to food as a risk factor for pediatric obesity as well as ways to translate basic science on habituation to food into clinical interventions.

He also leads two grant projects investigating the influence of taxes, subsidies and nutrient profiling on food purchases in an effort to provide scientific data to inform food-related public policy decisions.

He has published more than 350 scientific papers and three books.

Nationally Recognized for Health Psychology Expertise

A fellow in numerous scientific organizations, Epstein received the American Psychological Association Award for Outstanding Contributions to Health Psychology. He also served as president of the association’s Division of Health Psychology.

Also on the national level, Epstein chaired the NIH’s Behavioral Medicine Study Section and is the incoming chair of its Psychosocial Risk and Disease Prevention Study Section. In addition, he has served on the advisory board for the NIH’s Center for Scientific Research.

Award Honors Former Medical School Dean

The award and lecture memorialize Stockton Kimball, MD ’29, dean of the medical school from 1946 to 1958, and his contributions to physician training for more than 25 years.