Erica Kenney

Research Fellow

Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences

I am a research associate at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in the school’s Prevention Research Center on Nutrition and Physical Activity. Trained in social epidemiology and planned behavior change, my research focuses on identifying successful, efficient, and cost-effective strategies to modify children’s environments to make the healthiest choice the easiest choice and to help children form healthy habits for life. I do this through conducting both intervention studies and epidemiological studies. My work is grounded in social ecological theory and the investigation of how children’s environments can be feasibly changed to promote healthy eating habits and less screen time. This has resulted in work on developing valid, easy-to-use measures of dietary intake, feeding behaviors, nutrition policies, and the nutrition environment in child care and school settings; conducting and evaluating randomized, controlled trials of school- and afterschool-based interventions; and analyzing national datasets to identify important determinants of nutrition behaviors and obesity risk for children. At the Prevention Research Center, I collaborate with colleagues and community partners to identify and evaluate usable strategies for increasing drinking water access and reducing intake of sugary drinks in school, afterschool, and child care settings. With the Childhood Obesity Intervention Cost Effectiveness Study (CHOICES) team, I also study the cost-effectiveness of different policy strategies to prevent childhood obesity in early care and education settings. Currently, I am exploring the ways in which digital device use by parents and children may influence obesity risk as well as other health behaviors.



ScD, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 2013

MPH, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Yale School of Public Health, 2009

BA, Education Studies, Brown University, 2003



Kenney EL, Gortmaker SL. U.S. adolescents’ television, computer, videogame, smartphone, and tablet use: associations with sugary drinks, sleep, physical activity, and obesity. J Pediatr. 2016 Dec 9.

Cradock AL, Barrett JL, Kenney EL, Giles CM, Ward ZJ, Long MW, Resch SC, Pipito AA, Wei ER, Gortmaker SL. Using cost-effectiveness analysis to prioritize policy and programmatic approaches to physical activity promotion and obesity prevention in childhood. Prev Med. 2016 Oct 20

Kenney EL, Gortmaker SL, Cohen JFW, Rimm EB, Cradock AL. Limited drinking water access in middle and high schools. J Adolesc Health, 2016 Jul;59(1):24-9.

Kenney EL, Redman M, Criss S, Sonneville KR, Austin SB. Are K-12 school environments harming students with obesity? A qualitative study of classroom teachers. Eat Weight Disord., 2016 Mar 15

Schwartz MB, Henderson KE, Grode G, Hyary M, Kenney EL, O’Connell M, Middleton AE. Comparing Current Practice to Recommendations for the Child and Adult Care Food Program. Child Obes. 2015 Oct;11(5):491-8.

Cradock AL, Kenney EL, McHugh A, Conley L, Mozaffarian RM, Reiner JF, Gortmaker SL. Evaluating the impact of the Healthy Beverage Executive Order for city agencies in Boston, MA, 2011-2013. Prev Chronic Dis. 2015 Sep 10;12:E147.

Kenney EL, Long MW, Cradock AL, Gortmaker SL. Kenney et al. respond. Am J Public Health. 2015 Oct;105(10):e6-7.

Kenney EL, Gortmaker SL, Carter JE, Howe MCW, Reiner JF, Cradock AL. Grab a cup, fill it up! An intervention to promote the convenience of drinking water and increase student water consumption during school lunch. Am J Public Health. 2015 Sep;105(9):1777-83.

Wright DR, Kenney EL, Giles CM, Long MW, Ward ZJ, Resch SC et al. Modeling the cost-effectiveness of childcare policy changes in the United States. Am J Prev Med. 2015 Jul;49(1):135-47.

Kenney EL, Long MW, Cradock AL, Gortmaker SL. Prevalence of inadequate hydration among U.S. children and disparities by gender and race/ethnicity: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2009-2010. Am J Public Health. 2015 Aug;105(8):e113-8.

Kenney EL, Gortmaker SL, Davison KK, Austin SB. The academic penalty for gaining weight: a longitudinal, change-in-change analysis of BMI and perceived academic ability in middle school students. Int J Obes (Lond). 2015 Sep;39(9):1408-13.

Kenney EL, Davison KK, Austin SB, Giles CM, Cradock AL, Lee RM, Gortmaker SL. Validity and Reliability of a Simple, Low-Cost Measure to Quantify Children’s Dietary Intake in Afterschool Settings. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2015 Mar;115(3):426-32

Lee RM, Emmons KM, Okechukwu CA, Barrett JL, Kenney EL, Cradock AL, Giles CM, de Blois ME, Gortmaker SL. Validity of a practitioner-administered observational tool to measure physical activity, nutrition, and screen time in school-age programs. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2014 Nov 28;11(1):145

Kenney EL, Austin SB, Cradock AL, Giles CM, Lee RM, Davison KK, Gortmaker SL. Identifying sources of children’s consumption of junk food in Boston after-school programs, April-May 2011. Prev Chronic Dis. 2014 Nov 20;11:E205

Kenney EL, Giles CM, DeBlois Madeleine E., Gortmaker SL, Chinfatt S, Cradock AC. Improving nutrition and physical activity policies in afterschool programs: results from a group-randomized controlled trial. Prev Med, 2014 Sep;66:159-66.

Giles CM, Kenney EL, Gortmaker SL, Lee RM, Thayer JC, Mont-Ferguson H, Cradock AC. Increasing water availability during afterschool snack: evidence, strategies, and partnerships from a group randomized trial. Am J Prev Med 2012;43(2)(Suppl 2); S136–S142.

Kenney EL, Henderson KE, Humphries D, Schwartz MB. Practice-based research to engage teachers and improve nutrition in the preschool setting. Child Obes 2011; 7(6): 475-479.

Falbe J, Kenney EL, Henderson KE, Schwartz MB. The Wellness Child Care Assessment Tool: a measure to assess the quality of written nutrition and physical activity policies. J Am Diet Assoc. 2011 Dec;111(12):1852-60.

Henderson KE, Grode GM, Middleton AE, Kenney EL, Falbe J, Schwartz MB. Validity of a measure to assess the child-care nutrition and physical activity environment. J Am Diet Assoc. 2011 Sep;111(9):1306-13