Alison Field

Professor in the Department of Epidemiology

Department of Epidemiology

Boston Children’s Hospital

300 Longwood Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts 02115
Phone: 617.355.3735

Other Affiliations

Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School
Associate Epidemiologist, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Associate in Medicine, Boston Children’s Hospital

 

Research

Dr. Field’s research focuses on determining the optimal classification for eating and weight-related disorders and identifying the modifiable causes, correlates, consequences, and course of overweight and eating disorders among children, adolescents, and adult women.  Much of her current research uses data from the Growing Up Today Study (GUTS), an ongoing prospective cohort study of more than 16,000 youth that she helped to establish in 1996, and the younger cohort, GUTS II, which was established in 2004. Her early research on eating disorders focused on identifying the personal, peer, family, and media influences on starting to binge eating, purge, or develop an eating disorder. These studies were the first and the largest to investigate these associations prospectively. Her findings showing that dieting predicts both weight gain and developing disordered eating helped to draw attention to the fact that this common behavior among adolescent girls is a cause for concern. In addition, her research on parental influences has highlighted the role of fathers on eating disorders and weight concerns of adolescents.

She is currently investigating how eating disorders should be best classified. A current project of Dr. Field’s uses data from GUTS, and also data from youth in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), a birth cohort in the United Kingdom. Her findings were used by the working group who revised the eating disorder diagnostic criteria in 2013. Although eating disorders are considered to be much less common among males, her research has shown that the difference may be overestimated due to gender differences in presentation.

In addition to the studies on eating disorders, she is investigating the associations of intake of soda, diet soda, sports drinks, fast food, and take out food with BMI gain and the development of obesity among youth in the GUTS II cohort. She has found that sports drinks are a stronger predictor of weight gain than regular soda. She is mentoring a doctoral student on the analyses related to fastfood and takeout food intake and their associations with weight change. Dr. Field is also interested in classification of obesity. In a Viewpoint that she published in JAMA, Dr. Field and her colleagues argued that in an era of personalized or precision medicine it would be prudent for obesity to be broken into meaningful subtypes in order to improve prevention and treatment outcomes. She is currently pursuing obesity classification research using a variety of samples of children, adolescents, and adults.

Education

ScD, Harvard School of Public Health (Epidemiology)
BA, University of California, Berkeley (Psychology)