Researchers are embarking on a first-of-its-kind study looking at obesity among young people with disabilities, aiming to find out why it’s so common and what the ramifications are.

The study will focus on adolescents and adults who have physical and intellectual disabilities, paying particular attention to weight trends as individuals transition to adulthood. The effort will be funded by a five-year, $2 million grant from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.

“There’s a higher rate of obesity in this population,” says James Rimmer, professor of disability and human development at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who will lead the research. “This is really the only study ever funded that begins to lay the foundation of how obesity begins in a disabled population, when does it begin, how does it progress and advance and what are the anticipated consequences.”

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Among the issues researchers will consider are whether or not factors such as health conditions, hospitalizations, social isolation or availability of employment play a role in the likelihood of people with disabilities to be obese.