Leonard Epstein, the nationally renowned creator of the “Traffic Light Diet,” knows how to take an old approach and make it into something new.

In the 1970s, he made the most of the near-universal understanding of how red means stop, green means go, and yellow means caution, and used the color scheme to create an easy-to-follow diet for overweight children.

Now, the man who created the Traffic Light Diet and introduced people to other now well-known behaviors — like how limiting TV viewing helps fight childhood obesity – is coming to Roanoke to help formally open the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute Center for Transformative Research on Health Behaviors.

The public is invited to his center-opening guest lecture, From Ideas to Applications: From V2 Rockets to Autistic Children and Beyond, at 5:30 p.m., Sept. 27, at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute at 2 Riverside Circle in Roanoke, Virginia. 

Earlier on Wednesday afternoon, VTCRI Executive Director Michael Friedlander will officiate at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the center at 1 Riverside Circle that will feature the center co-directors — Warren Bickel, the Virginia Tech Carilion Behavioral Health Research Professor, and Matthew Hulver, the head of the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Also expected at the ribbon-cutting are Steve Arner, the executive vice president and chief operating officer of Carilion Clinic; Fralin Life Science Institute Director Dennis Dean; and Sally Morton, dean of Virginia Tech’s College of Science.

Scientists at the new research center will tackle the threat of lifestyle diseases — medical conditions such as obesity and diabetes — that are caused or aggravated by a person’s own behavior. Epstein’s public lecture will highlight the need for a better understanding of lifestyle diseases, as well as the benefits that can arise from studying behavior.

A Distinguished Professor in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo, Epstein will tell the story of how basic behavioral science has been used to create innovative approaches to military problems, animal training, developmental disabilities, and drug addiction.

In addition, he will examine the advantages of being open to new approaches to problems, especially in the creation of new technology that we use every day.

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