Karen Peterson

Adjunct Professor of Nutrition

Department of Society, Human Development, and Health

Department of Nutrition

677 Huntington Avenue
Kresge Building 617
Boston, MA 02115
Phone: 617.432.1135

Other Affiliations

Director of Public Health Nutrition, Department of Nutrition


Dr. Peterson’s research considers determinants of intergenerational patterns of growth in mothers and children and the design and evaluation of domestic and international surveillance systems and community-based interventions in low income, multi-ethnic populations.

She is the Principal Investigator of Reducing Disease Risk in Low-Income, Postpartum Women, a randomized controlled trial (NICHD R01 HD37368), testing the efficacy of an educational model delivered by community-based paraprofessionals in improving diet, activity, and patterns of pregnancy-related weight retention among new mothers over a 12-month postpartum period. This project was funded through the Behavior Change Consortium, the first trans-NIH research program comprising 15 RO1 research grants to develop theory-driven approaches to improve diet, activity, and/or smoking in diverse populations.

Dr. Peterson, in collaboration with Dr Geoffrey Greene (University of Rhode Island), also directs the Coordinating Center for the Multi-Center BCC Validation Study (NCI, 2000-5) of factors associated with accuracy and precision of self-reported dietary intake, as well as the BCC Dietary Supplement Study (ODS/NCI/OBSSR, 2003-5) of patterns of dietary supplement use and their relationship to lifestyle behaviors in diverse populations and in response to intervention. Dr. Peterson was Co-PI of the Planet Health intervention trial (Gortmaker, NICHD, 1994-97), is currently Co-PI of the Evaluation of the Massachusetts Partnership for a Healthy Weight, testing the efficacy of the Planet Health curriculum combined with school-based environmental policy change. Through the Harvard Prevention Research Center, Dr. Peterson is PI of several projects centering on improving approaches to surveillance of nutrition, activity and weight status in the US population.

Dr. Peterson directs research and training in the newly established Program in Public Health Nutrition in the Department of Nutrition, and oversees the work of one Research Scientist and seven doctoral students. She teaches courses on Physical Growth and Development and on Programs and Principles of Public Health Nutrition.

Dr. Peterson is Co-Editor of the journal Ecology of Food and Nutrition, an Officer and Executive Board member for the International Nutrition Foundation, President of the US Graduate Faculties of Public Health Nutrition and President of the MCH Council of the Association of Schools of Public Health. She is a member of the IOM Scientific Advisory Committee on Revision of the WIC Food Packages.


R.D., 1977, Peter Bent Brigham Hospital
D.Sc., 1987, Harvard School of Public Health