How a Wesley College study on obesity brought wellness programs to campus - Delaware


Aug. 9, 2017 10:55 am

How a Wesley College study on obesity brought wellness programs to campus

Some striking findings from a team of researchers forced the Dover college to prioritize student health. “This is bigger than a few changes on campus,” said professor Malcolm J. D'Souza.

The four authors of the study when the students presented their initial work in September 2015.

(Photo courtesy of Wesley College)

It all started with a voluntary survey at Wesley College in Dover, the results of which were concerning: obesity affected a larger percentage of the student body than anyone realized.

There have been studies on obesity in children in Delaware, but never one on adults. So, with the help of grants from the Delaware Economic Development Office, the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and the National Institutes of Health, Wesley students Riza C. Bautista (now a graduate student in the bioinformatics program at the University of Delaware) and Catherine E. Gross (now a science teacher at Dover High School), along with professors Malcolm J. D’Souza and Derald E. Wentzien, examined the obesity mortality rates in Delaware from 1999–2014.

Using a number of statistical and mapping tools, they analyzed vital statistics data from the CDC WONDER database and the Delaware Health Statistics Center.

The results confirmed the trend they saw among their Wesley peers in the informal survey: Adults in Delaware are facing a growing obesity crisis, with obesity-related deaths rising by 28.7 percent over the 15 years studied, with Kent County seeing the biggest increase, at 66 percent.

The published paper has yet to be widely used, partly, D’Souza says, because the data is so localized. But there’s one place that the study has had a big impact, and that’s Wesley College itself.

Health and fitness have become an everyday part of student life at Wesley, from the dormitories to the dining halls, as they become not just educated and mentally prepared for the workforce, but also fitter, healthier adults. And, as many businesses are starting to realize, wellness saves money in healthcare and adds quality of life.

“We are a minority-serving school,” D’Sousa told “Many of our students are the first in their family to go to college, and and 56 percent are from low-income households. This is bigger than a few changes on campus.”




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