Professor of the Practice of Health Sociology
My research is focused on the health of children and adolescents, particularly households living in poverty and minority populations. The major goal of this research has been to identify modifiable risks for morbidity and mortality in the young, and to both initiate and evaluate interventions to improve these outcomes. I have focused on a broad variety of risks, ranging from sociological concepts such as income poverty, social stress and social networks, to behaviors such as smoking, inactivity (exemplified by television viewing) and diet. Interventions have included work at both the level of national and state policy, programs at the regional, county, school, hospital, clinic and individual level. Research includes collaborative work with research groups at Harvard, in the Boston area, nationally, and internationally.
I direct the Harvard School of Public Health Prevention Research Center (HPRC). Established in 1998, the HPRC is one of 33 centers funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Our mission is to work with community partners to design, implement, and evaluate programs that improve nutrition and physical activity, reduce overweight and reduce chronic disease risk among children and youth. HPRC projects involve community partners in every phase: conceptualization, design, planning, implementation and evaluation. Our long-term goals are to build community capacity to implement and evaluate effective prevention programs and to advance national knowledge regarding interventions that promote nutrition and physical activity.
Current activities include continuing implementation, dissemination and updating our school curriculums. Our Planet Health curriculum is in use in over 80 middle schools statewide in partnership with the Boston Public Schools and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Massachusetts Healthy Choices program. Our elementary school health curriculum, Eat Well and Keep Moving, is in 18 of Boston?s elementary schools. Both programs have been shown to reduce obesity risk behaviors in experimental trials, and are in wide use across the US. Teacher training slides are available on our website: (www.hsph.harvard.edu/prc).
Other collaborations include the new Donald and Sue Pritzker Nutrition and Fitness Initiative, which I co-direct with Frank Hu. A portion of this initiative funds an innovative research project being conducted with the nation’s YMCAs. This project, led Jean Wiecha and myself, will measure the effectiveness of the after-school program in a wide variety of YMCA after-school sites over the next three years.
We are working with the Maine Youth Overweight Collaborative (MYOC) and the Healthy Care for Healthy Kids (HCHK) Collaborative in developing materials for parents and clinical care providers around reduced television viewing, sugar sweetened beverages and increased physical activity and consumption of fruits and vegetables for children ages 5-18 in Maine (MYOC) and ages 0-12 in Massachusetts (HCHK).
Ph.D., 1977, University of Wisconsin, Madison