"Obesity policy research." That's my response if I’m at a social event, chatting with a stranger who asks what I do.
The stranger’s response is commonly, “Interesting!! ... What’s that?!” followed by a lengthy discussion about the government’s role in reducing obesity. My research makes a great icebreaker - it's not a topic that people struggle to have
Specifically, my research breaks down into 3 categories:
Food policy research
I study any policy that is designed to promote healthier diet. Examples include:
In 2012, I was awarded a 5-year grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) to apply system dynamics to my policy research.
System dynamics is a computer simulation technique that models systems that are characterized by interdependence, mutual interaction, information feedback, and circular causality. They are particularly equipped to explore why policy resistance occurs. My NICHD project is designed to simulate policies that are best equipped to reduce both obesity and racial/ethnic disparities.
As part of my work, I spent Summer 2015 at the Johns Hopkins University Global Obesity Prevention Center (GOPC), as a visiting scholar. GOPC is a leading research center dedicated to applying systems science to obesity prevention and reduction. I co-taught "Complex Systems and Obesity in Human Populations" at GOPC with Dr. Thomas Glass and Dr. Manuel Franco.
The reality - policies can make health disparities worse if they do not address the complex social and economic factors that cause obesity. Communities of color and low-income populations suffer from higher rates of obesity, diabetes, and related diseases. One of the biggest goals of my research is to determine if policy and systems change can reduce health disparities.
Disentangling the effects of economic, social, and policy factors is a challenge, however. This led me to learn more advanced machine learning methods (e.g., random forests) to identify the most important predictors of obesity in disadvantaged areas.
You can find my full CV using the link at the top of the page.