About the Prevention Research Center on Nutrition and Physical Activity


Since 1998, the HPRC has worked with community partners and launched groundbreaking research in a variety of settings: early education and care, schools, and clinical and community settings. We have worked to develop, evaluate, and disseminate tools and trainings within our partner communities and states, as well as nationally and internationally.

About Us

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Our team explores policies, programs, and practices that can improve nutrition and physical activity and promote healthy weight for children and their families. We focus on strategies that are cost-effective, highlighting those that improve both population health and advance health equity. We also help partners put these effective strategies into place in community settings. Based within the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, we are members of a national network of Prevention Research Centers funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Why It Matters

Childhood is a crucial period for developing healthy habits. Many preventive strategies play a critical role in helping children establish healthy behaviors early on in life. Eating healthy, moving more, drinking water, reducing sugary drink consumption, and reducing exposure to the marketing of unhealthy foods and drinks can all contribute to better health outcomes for both children and adults. Our research focuses on advancing these key priority areas through a cost-effectiveness lens to promote healthier environments, improve both child and population health, reduce health disparities, and advance health equity. 

What We Do

Working closely with collaborators, community partners, and our Community Advisory Board, we aim to: 

  • Work with partners to evaluate large scale community initiatives, developing evidence-based interventions using rigorous study designs 
  • Promote widespread adoption of cost-effective and evidence-based prevention strategies to promote healthy weight, nutrition, and physical activity 
  • Offer nutrition and physical activity resources, tools, curricula, and professional training opportunities 
  • Conduct training and mentoring activities for faculty, staff, students, and partners to increase capacity to conduct community-engaged research 

Who We Support

We provide resources, training, and support to leaders and staff in organizations whose work directly influences opportunities for improving the health of children and their families. These include: 

  • Public health agencies at the state, county, and city levels 
  • Departments of education and local education agencies 
  • Community-based organizations that provide services or support for children and their families 
  • Health care settings that provide care and services to children and their families 
  • Students, researchers, and future public health leaders 

Our Vision

The widespread use of cost-effective policies, programs, and practices that ensure all children and their families lead healthier lives. 

Our Mission

To work with community partners to develop, implement, evaluate, and disseminate cost-effective strategies that will improve population nutrition and physical activity, prevent excess weight gain and chronic disease, and advance health equity. 


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Prevention Research Centers blue logoThe Prevention Research Center on Nutrition and Physical Activity at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HPRC) is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U48DP006376). The findings and conclusions are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or other funders.

Last updated:  February 17, 2023

Research Impact

Translation of research into practice

Boston’s former Mayor Menino called the Play Across Boston work “a ‘playbook’ for future sports and recreation plans by the City of Boston and its partners.” After documenting disparities in participation in out of school time programs and access to quality playgrounds in the city, the project partners worked together to monitor ongoing citywide efforts and success in reducing documented disparities in access to quality physical activity facilities.

Creating healthier spaces

Since 2012, over 150 afterschool programs in Massachusetts have participated in the Out-of-School Nutrition and Physical Activity Initiative designed to help create healthy spaces for kids by working to improve nutrition- and physical activity-related practices, environments, and policies in afterschool and summer programs. Evaluation of program data shows positive changes in physical activity and beverages.

Widespread use of evidence-based resources

The HPRC has created variety of tools, resources, curricula, and trainings that have been used broadly. For example, our Planet Health and Eat Well and Keep Moving curricula have been disseminated worldwide, with over 10,000 copies of Planet Health, and 5,000 copies of Eat Well and Keep Moving distributed in all 50 US states and more than 20 countries.

Building capacity among community partners

The Leaders in Health Community Training Program in collaboration with Harvard Catalyst and the Boston Collaborative for Food and Fitness was created to build the internal capacity of our community partners by providing selected staff with training in community based participatory research methods and nutrition, physical activity, and obesity prevention.