Exercise science professor and SmartState Endowed Chair of the Technology Center to Promote Healthy Lifestyles (TecHealth), Dr. Delia West (University of South Carolina, Arnold School of Public Health), has received the 2018 Pioneer Award from the eHealth/mHealth Section of The Obesity Society. She was recognized during the organization’s Obesity Week (November 11-15), held in Nashville, Tennessee.
Established in 2012 at the inaugural session of the Society’s eHealth/mHealth section, the Pioneer Award was created to recognize those who have demonstrated a consistent history of excellence in the field. These individuals are known for paving the way for further advancements in the use of electronic and mobile technologies to enhance obesity research, prevention and treatment.
Dr. West’s work focuses on technology-assisted lifestyle interventions. She is particularly interested in identifying the most effective approaches to harness the platforms offered by technology to increase access and efficacy of lifestyle programs to promote healthy weight management. Her research translates these interventions into community settings with a focus on underserved populations.
As director of TecHealth, Dr. West’s role involves training the next generation of health-technology scholars while conducting research that focuses on implementing and evaluating lifestyle interventions. Designed to promote health and reduce the risk of disease, these interventions feature technology as a central component.
For example, Dr. West’s iReach studies (now in their third generation) examine internet-assisted obesity treatment, investigating key variables (e.g., in-person vs online contexts; motivational interviewing; financial incentives) that impact participant success. Another TecHealth project looks at physical activity, sedentary behavior, eating habits, stress levels, and sleep patterns among undergraduate students.
“Delia is a true pioneer in the field of technology-based behavioral weight loss interventions,” says Christine Pellegrini, assistant professor of exercise science and TecHealth. “She has substantially contributed to our understanding and knowledge of how best to leverage technology to treat overweight and obesity.”
Dr. West earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Brown University, which she immediately followed with master’s and doctoral degrees in psychology from Rutgers University. During her Ph.D. program, West participated in a Clinical Internship in Health Psychology at the Veteran’s Administration Medical Center in West Haven, Connecticut. Following her 1989 graduation, Dr. West completed a two-year, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute-funded postdoctoral fellowship in Cardiovascular Behavioral Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine’s Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic.
“I think that my psychology training is a natural fit with public health,” says Dr. West, who utilizes this background to enhance motivation among individuals to make and sustain healthy lifestyle behavior changes. “I am curious about how people make decisions to engage in specific behaviors and how to influence them to make healthy behavior changes—as well as identify factors that make health behaviors more difficult. These insights help us tailor treatment to individuals, and we are hopeful that tailoring treatment will make it more effective.”