Research Projects

Social and Behavioral Interventions During the First 1,000 Days to Prevent Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity is a chronic disease of pandemic proportion that leads to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and curtailed life span. Pregnancy and infancy may provide a critical window for prevention of childhood obesity in disproportionately burdened populations. In partnership with hospital and community partners, this research seeks to develop and test the feasibility of clinical intervention components targeting the first 1,000 days – the period from conception to age two years – to prevent development of childhood obesity. Targets include behavioral, biologic, and social risk factors such as food insecurity. Ultimately, we will test effectiveness and scale up the most promising interventions.

Leveraging Health IT for Neighborhoods in Childhood (LINC)

The first 24 months of life may provide a critical window for prevention of childhood obesity in disproportionately burdened populations. Social determinants of health (SDoH) are increasingly recognized as playing key upstream roles in etiologies of obesity. In the proposed research, we will leverage the electronic health record (EHR) to examine relationships of SDoH with infant growth from birth to age 24 months; study effects of clinical-community resource linkages on SDoH and infant growth parameters; and explore family and stakeholder perceptions of EHR-based SDoH screening and social service referrals in order to inform future adoption of EHR-based SDoH measures and interventions to prevent childhood obesity.

Pediatric Fatty Liver Disease Research

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is the most common cause of chronic liver disease in children and adults worldwide. Fatty liver disease is a risk factor for hepatocellular carcinoma and a leading reason for liver transplantation. Investigating methods for early detection and prevention of fatty liver disease in children is a public health imperative. This research will accelerate the use of non-invasive technologies to diagnose pediatric fatty liver disease and provide new information on biologic and behavioral childhood risk factors that can be bridged to clinical and public health interventions to reduce fatty liver disease.

Family Health Survey

Emerging information suggests that while children may be less likely to have severe symptoms from COVID-19, they are not immune to adverse psychosocial, behavioral, and health outcomes affiliated with the pandemic. The necessary closures imposed on educational, health care, and community settings in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 could very well exacerbate risk factors for obesity and associated cardiometabolic outcomes. The overall goal of this longitudinal research is to examine the immediate and future impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on health behaviors and health outcomes among families with a pregnant woman or child.