Research Projects

We provide trainees with research opportunities that help them develop content expertise in prevention of eating disorders and dangerous weight and shape control behaviors and the methodological expertise needed to conduct rigorous scientific research. Trainees are linked with opportunities to take part in research projects, provided with funding so they can devote the time needed to carry out the projects, and mentored by experts in the field.

Economic Perspectives on Eating Disorders

In an economics-based project, HSPH master’s degree student LeAnn Noh is working with Collaborating Mentor Mihail Samnaliev, PhD, to develop new skills in economic analysis focusing on the economic burden of eating disorders. Their work aims to estimate the economic costs of eating disorders by examining the healthcare cost incurred by individuals suffering from eating disorders as well as additional medical expenditure among individuals with eating disorders and comorbidities. Results of their study will be vitally important for estimating potential cost savings of prevention and early detection.

A Critical Eye on the Weight-Loss and Beauty Industries

In several projects, STRIPED trainees and faculty are turning a critical eye on the beauty industry — an industry that is as ubiquitous and pernicious as it is complex and challenging to study. As part of our multidisciplinary team including the unlikely mix of a geographer, an economist, a statistician, and a nutritionist, HSPH doctoral student Allegra Gordon along with STRIPED staffer Grace Kennedy helped to pilot new methods to map the onslaught of beauty industry purveyors in young people’s environments. We are now scaling up the project with the help of Jeff Blossom of the Harvard University Center for Geographic Analysis and others to map hot spots around the country. In a parallel project, STRIPED faculty Jerel Calzo, PhD, is working closely with STRIPED Director Bryn Austin and Co-Director Kendrin Sonneville to carry out a national study of male body image and the masculinization of the cosmetic surgery and procedures industry and dietary products marketed for building muscles and losing weight.

STRIPED’s newest faculty, Christina Roberto, PhD, is mentoring HSPH master’s student Brigitte Granger and Harvard College undergraduate Kelly Bauer in a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded investigation of deceptive marketing practices used by the weight-loss industry. Kelly and Brigitte are gaining hands-on research experience documenting the scope of these misleading marketing strategies and are also working to design follow-up studies that will examine how weight-loss industry marketing practices negatively influence young people and — most importantly — what we can do to change these harmful marketing practices.

In another project, Jennifer Pomeranz, JD, MPH, who is STRIPED Affiliated Faculty in Health Law, is mentoring Harvard Law student Grant Barbosa to investigate promising legal avenues to protect youth from exploitation by the dietary supplements industry and its generally ineffective and sometimes dangerous products sold for weight control and muscle building. Grant is gaining invaluable experience that he’ll be able to use in his law career after graduation to help craft viable legal strategies to protect those most vulnerable in our society’s unrelenting pursuit of beauty.

Our newest legal research project, led by STRIPED Collaborating Mentor Katherine Record, JD, MPH, MA, will investigate ways to bring occupational safety laws to bear on the fashion industry to protect professional models from the industry’s perilous standards of extreme thinness. In a previous STRIPED project, Jennifer Pomeranz, JD, MPH, mentored Harvard Law School graduate Katherine Cohen Cooper, JD, to investigate promising legal avenues to protect youth and other vulnerable groups from abuses and exploitation by the cosmetic surgery industry.

Cost Effectiveness of Eating Disorder Screening

Through our cost-effectiveness evaluation of school-based screening for eating disorders and with the expert guidance of STRIPED Collaborating Mentor Davene Wright, PhD, Yushan Jiang, MS, and HSPH master’s degree student Hyungi LeAnn Noh learned volumes about these essential public health methods as applied to eating disorders. Dr. Wright, a 2012 PhD graduate in health policy from Harvard University and now an Assistant Professor at University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Research Institute, is an expert in cost-effectiveness and decision analysis research. She joined forces with us to carry out what may be the first-ever U.S. cost-effectiveness study of eating disorders screening.

Fat Talk Free Week Pilot Evaluation Study

Our team, led by STRIPED trainees Bernice Raveche Garnett, ScD, (principal investigator) and Rob Buelow, MS (study coordinator), conducted the first-ever evaluation of the innovative Fat Talk Free Week social marketing campaign on college campuses.

Abuse of Over-the-Counter Products for Weight Control

Our team conducted a two-pronged investigation of abuse of products such as laxatives and diet pills through a legal study led by public health law expert Jennifer Pomeranz, JD, MPH and a medical claims study led by health policy expert Robert Penfold, PhD, of the Seattle-based Group Health Research Institute, and STRIPED Expert Advisory Panel member Jess Haines, PhD. Recent trainees Meredith Chace, Jenna Kruger, MPH, and Lisa Taylor, JD, were all instrumental on this research project.

Healthy Choices Study: Eating Disorders Prevention in Adolescents

STRIPED director Dr. Bryn Austin and HSPH doctoral graduate Monica Wang, ScD, carried out a series of analyses along with Healthy Choices Study principal investigator Karen Peterson, ScD, of University of Michigan School of Public Health and the Healthy Choices Study team to examine potential protective influences in the lives of early adolescent girls and boys and the long-term effects of the Healthy Choices program on disordered weight control behaviors in middle schools across Massachusetts.