Key Research by Setting

The HPRC conducts a variety of community-based participatory research projects in schools, health care and clinical settings, across communities, and in early care and out-of-school time environments. Our work has led to changes in environmental systems and widespread use of evidence-based programs and policies developed through our research.

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Early Adopters: State Approaches to Testing School Drinking Water for Lead in the United States
This project conducted statistical analysis of water lead content data from state-based testing programs overall and by school social and demographic characteristics. Researchers documented features of state school water quality testing programs and compared their methodologies to standard health surveillance elements.

Eat Well & Keep Moving
Eat Well & Keep Moving is a school-based program that equips children with the knowledge, skills, and supportive environment they need in order to lead healthier lives by choosing nutritious diets and being physically active. The program is designed for fourth and fifth grade students. Its six interlinked components—classroom education, physical education, school-wide promotional campaigns, food service, staff wellness, and parent and community involvement—work together to create a supportive environment that promotes the lifelong learning of good habits.

Planet Health
Planet Health is an interdisciplinary curriculum focused on improving the health and well-being of sixth through eighth grade students while building and reinforcing skills in language arts, math, science, social studies, and physical education.

School Water Quality, Availability, and Education-Related Practices
This objective of this study, funded by Healthy Eating Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, was to identify the prevalence of school water quality, availability, and education-related practices, and determine whether there were differences in those practices by school characteristics.

Evaluation of Boston’s Active School Day Policy Interventions
The HPRC partnered with the Boston Public Schools and the Boston Public Health Commission to evaluate the impact of the Boston Public Schools’ efforts to increase and improve physical education (PE) and physical activity in schools.

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Health Care

Maine Youth Overweight Collaborative (MYOC)
The Maine Youth Overweight Collaborative (MYOC), a joint initiative of the Maine-Harvard Prevention Research Center, the Maine Center for Public Health, and the Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), aimed to improve care and outcomes for overweight youth. MYOC applied community-based research principles to develop the Keep ME Healthy toolkit for parents and clinical care providers. It has reached an agreement with the National AAP to market and promote internationally its Pediatric Obesity Clinical Decision Support Chart.

Healthy Hospitals: Improving the food and beverage environments in healthcare settings
Collaborators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health worked together to foster the implementation of key strategies to reduce sodium in the foods sold and offered, as well as limit the availability of sugary drinks and promote water.

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Communities & Government

Massachusetts CHOICES Project
As a CDC-funded Prevention Research Center, the Prevention Research Center on Nutrition and Physical Activity’s Core Research Project is the Massachusetts CHOICES Project. The purpose of the Massachusetts CHOICES Project is to work collaboratively with community partners, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) and the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC), to develop a playbook of 10-14 top strategies to reduce obesity prevalence and study how cost-effectiveness metrics are used by partners throughout the state. This work builds off of the CHOICES Project.

Childhood Obesity Intervention Cost-Effectiveness Study (CHOICES) Project
The CHOICES Project is a collaboration among researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Milken Institute School of Public Health at The George Washington University. The CHOICES team also collaborates with the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC), and a variety of state and local health agencies in a series of Learning Collaborative Partnerships (LCPs). The CHOICES research team has assessed the comparative effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of over 40 strategies aimed at reducing childhood obesity. Visit the CHOICES website for more information.

Supporting Community-based COVID-19 Vaccination Outreach in Three Massachusetts Communities
The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted communities of color, with lower income and more racially and ethnically diverse communities being hit particularly hard. In Massachusetts, these communities have also seen less benefit from COVID-19 vaccines and have lower vaccination rates compared to the state average. Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) have the relationships, trust, and expertise to best serve their communities and increase vaccine equity. The HPRC is working in partnership with CBOs in Brockton, Lynn, and Springfield to promote vaccine confidence, access and uptake in Black, Latinx, and immigrant populations.

Evidence to Inform a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy
This study, funded by the Physical Activity Research Center (PARC), used data from the U.S. Census and the American Community Survey to look at how people ages 16 and older got to and from work over time between 2000 and 2016 in counties with populations of at least 100,000 people.

Partnership to Improve Community Health (PICH) Project
This project was  a CDC-funded initiative of the Boston Public Health Commission, and aimed to support implementation of evidence-based strategies to improve the health of communities and reduce the prevalence of chronic disease.

Play Across Boston
Play Across Boston was undertaken by the HPRC in collaboration with Northeastern University’s for the Study of Sport in Society and a broad-based community advisory board. From 1999 to 2001, Play Across Boston led a comprehensive community-based assessment of physical activity programs and facilities for Boston youth. The goal of this project was to document youth sports and physical activity resources in Boston in order to understand how community resources and individual and household characteristics combine to influence levels of physical activity.

Examining Practices that Promote Access to Safe Routes to School Programs in Vulnerable Communities
Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs in multiple states have adopted several approaches to reduce barriers faced by schools in low-income communities, which span the project timeline from planning to implementation. Given the differences in state programs and policies, this study, funded by Healthy Eating Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, aimed to determine which of these practices for equitable funding were successful in promoting SRTS implementation within vulnerable communities.

Economic Investment and Program Implementation in Communities through Safe Routes to School (SRTS)
This project documents economic investment in communities through the federal Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program and examines the distribution of funds across states, regions, and areas defined by population and demographic characteristics (e.g., percent poverty, educational status).

Boston Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH): Obesity and Hypertension Demonstration Project
This project was a CDC-funded initiative of the Boston Public Health Commission, and aimed to develop and implement replicable and scalable strategies that assure population-wide policy, systems, and environmental improvements to reduce obesity and hypertension, and decrease health disparities.

Youth Task Force (YTF)
The Youth Task Force (YTF) was a group of high school students who conducted research projects to inform the work of the HPRC and its community partners. The YTF was created to: 1) enhance the center’s research capability by providing access to information and perspectives that youth may be more likely to share with peers than adult professionals; 2) provide a participatory role for youth in the research process; and 3) allow youth to build research and leadership skills.

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Early Care & Out-of-School Time

Out-of-School Nutrition and Physical Activity (OSNAP) Initiative
An initiative designed to develop healthy habits related to healthy foods, drinks, and physical activity through sustainable policy and environmental strategies during out of school time programs.

Food and Fun After School
Food and Fun After School (© President and Fellows of Harvard College and YMCA of the USA) is a curriculum designed to develop healthy habits out of school time. Eleven teaching units help programs infuse healthy snacks and recipes, physically active games, and creative learning activities into regular program schedules.

YMCA-Harvard Afterschool Food and Fitness
The YMCA–Harvard Afterschool Food and Fitness Project aimed to help afterschool programs and child care providers create healthy environments for children. The HPRC conducted a quasi-experimental evaluation of a YMCA-driven intervention focused on nutrition and physical activity practice changes in 32 afterschool programs across the country. The program was implemented via an organizational change model, and participating sites utilized the Food & Fun curriculum developed by the HPRC in partnership with the YMCA of the USA.