Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School; Research Scientist in the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine, Boston Children’s Hospital
Dr. Austin is an award-winning researcher, teacher, and mentor. Her primary research is in the behavioral sciences and social epidemiology, addressing social and physical environmental influences on eating disorders risk, strategies for preventing eating disorders, and promotion of healthful eating, physical activity, and development in youth in school and community settings. Her research on eating disorders, nutrition, and the environment includes work with the Planet Health, 5-2-1-Go!, and Healthy Choices studies, all middle-school-based interventions to promote healthful nutrition and physical activity; the Growing Up Today Study 1 & 2, U.S. national prospective cohort studies that combined include over 27,000 youth; and the National Eating Disorders Screening Program, a screening initiative conducted in over 100 high schools nationwide to promote early identification and treatment for adolescents with eating disorder symptoms. She published two analyses based on data from independent randomized controlled trials demonstrating the protective effect of the Planet Health curriculum (created by Drs. Steven Gortmaker, PhD, Karen Peterson, ScD, Jean Wiecha, PhD, and Jill Carter, EdM www.planet-health.org) on the development of disordered weight control behaviors in early adolescent girls. She also conducted a study with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention health economist Li Yan Wang, MBA, to estimate the substantial cost savings that could be achieved through Planet Health’s eating disorders protective effect and another study with STRIPED Collaborating Mentors Davene Wright and Kendrin Sonneville demonstrating the cost effectiveness of school-based screening for eating disorders. She recent led a collaboration with Deloitte Access Economics and the Academy for Eating Disorders to produce the most comprehensive study of the social and economic burden of eating disorders in the U.S. (https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/striped/report-economic-costs-of-eating-disorders/) She currently leads a program of research into policy approaches to advance primary prevention of eating disorders.
Dr. Austin is Immediate Past President of the board of directors of the Academy for Eating Disorders, Immediate Past President of the board of directors of the Eating Disorders Coalition and serves on the editorial boards of the International Journal of Eating Disorders and Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention. In addition, her research interests include gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender adolescent health and reduction of sexual orientation and gender identity related health disparities. Dr. Austin received her ScD from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.