Elsie Taveras

Professor in the Department of Nutrition

Department of Nutrition

Professor in the Department of Nutrition

Chief, Division of General Academic Pediatrics
Department of Pediatrics
Mass General Hospital for Children
125 Nashua St, Suite 860
Boston, MA 02114

B.S. (Neuroscience), 1993, New York University
M.D. (Medicine), 1997, New York University School of Medicine
M.P.H. (Clinical Effectiveness), 2003, Harvard School of Public Health

Residency, Boston Medical Center
Fellowship, Children’s Hospital Boston

Other Affiliations
Ofer and Shelly Nemirosvsky MGH Research Scholar
Chief, Division of General Academic Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics
Director, Pediatric Population Health Management
Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School

Research Interests

  • Early life origins of obesity
  • Obesity prevention and treatment
  • Examining racial/ethnic disparities
  • Health services research

I have established a record of scholarship in two areas: 1) epidemiologic analyses of risk factors for childhood obesity across the lifecourse, with an emphasis on examining racial/ethnic disparities and 2) translating epidemiologic evidence into clinical and public health innovations to prevent and manage obesity and its sequelae.

A major focus of my research concerns determinants of childhood obesity throughout the lifecourse. I have published extensively on risk factors for childhood obesity in the pregnancy, infancy, and early childhood periods. These have included several influential studies on infant feeding, maternal-child feeding practices, accelerated infant weight gain, and insufficient sleep. I have also examined early life risk factors and the emergence of racial/ethnic disparities in childhood obesity prevalence. In 2010, I was senior author on a study showing increases in racial/ethnic disparities in severe childhood obesity in the US. In addition, I published a study showing racial/ethnic differences in early life risk factors for childhood obesity which was cited in the White House Task Force Report on Childhood Obesity and selected by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as one of the most influential studies of 2010.

A second focus of my research is translating observational epidemiology into clinical and public health innovations to prevent and manage obesity among young children and their families. I have been Principal Investigator of several clinical, home, community, and systems-level intervention studies. In addition to the clinical interventions described above, I have also led: (1) Healthy Habits, Happy Homes – a home-visiting intervention which successfully improved sleep and screen time habits and improved body mass index among low-income children, and (2) Mass in Motion Kids, an ongoing Childhood Obesity Research Demonstration Grant and a whole-of-community intervention in two MA towns aiming to reduce the prevalence of obesity among 2-12 year old disadvantaged children.

Current projects

Childhood obesity demonstration project (CORD)

This is a four year, CDC-funded obesity prevention study targeting children 2-12 years old living in low-income communities (http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/researchproject.html). The aim of the project is to identify effective health care and community strategies to support children’s healthy eating and active living to help combat childhood obesity and prevent the onset of many associated diseases, including type-2 diabetes, asthma and heart disease. Building on existing community efforts and using innovative, evidence-based approaches to reach low-income and minority families, this multi-sector, multi-component project partners the Harvard School of Public Health with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and the National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality to combine changes in preventive care at pediatric visits with supportive changes in schools, childcare centers, after school programs and community venues such as retail food stores and parks. Behavioral objectives of the study include:

  • Decrease screen time and remove television sets from bedrooms;
  • Decrease children’s consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages;
  • Increase levels of moderate and vigorous physical activity;
  • Increase children’s sleep duration and improve sleep quality;
  • Replace calorically-dense foods with fruits and vegetables.

Infant Sleep Patterns and Accelerated Growth Trajectories from Birth to 24 Months

The goals of this study are to examine associations of infant sleep patterns with growth from birth to 24 months of age, feeding and neurobehavioral pathways linking adverse sleep patterns to early childhood obesity, and modifiable determinants of infant sleep patterns that will directly inform intervention design. We will carry out this project within a cohort of infants that will be recruited from a large newborn nursery in Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).

Obesity Prevention in the First 1000 Days

The goal of this study is to reduce obesity risk and related racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities among families living in economically deprived settings by implementing and testing the First 1000 Days intervention. A Collective Impact initiative with stakeholders from key early life sectors will support the design of an intervention, from early pregnancy through the first 24 months postpartum, to prevent excess weight gain among mothers, promote healthful growth among their offspring, and improve obesogenic behaviors in the family unit. The intervention will be delivered through four primary early life systems: Obstetrics, Pediatric Primary Care, WIC, and HV programs.