Nurgül Fitzgerald, Ph.D., M.S., R.D.

ASSOCIATE Professor / Extension Specialist
Ph.D., University of Connecticut, 2004

More than a third of the adult population in the United States has type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, and some minorities and individuals with limited socioeconomic resources suffer from this disease and its consequences even more. Because most of type 2 cases can be prevented by lifestyle changes and controlling weight, my work is focused on preventing the risk factors (e.g., obesity, physical inactivity, and certain food intake patterns), and addressing the underlying cultural, socioeconomic, and environmental factors such as food insecurity, acculturation, and food environment.

My research group uses a socioecological framework to address individual, family/peer, organizational, community, and policy level determinants of food intake and physical activity. We also use a food and nutrition system approach for a comprehensive look into the elements of the food system that are likely to affect food intake patterns such as distribution and marketing practices, healthy food availability, and access issues.

Get Moving – Get Healthy New Jersey logo.

Studies among Children and Families

Get Moving – Get Healthy New Jersey includes a school-based physical activity program for children, online information for families, and Children’s Health Summits and local coalitions to promote physical activity, healthy eating behaviors, and community action to prevent obesity.

all4kidslogo.jpg logo.

Healthy, Happy, Active, Fit is a preschool-based program focusing on healthy eating, physical activity, and body size acceptance through a highly interactive (and fun) curriculum (which helps meet the state education and training standards). The program engages families through simple strategies that can be implemented at home.

New Brunswick Community Farmers Market logo.

Studies Focusing on the Food Environment and Food System

New Brunswick Community Farmers Market aims to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables especially for families with limited economic resources. Through its community garden and the nutrition stand, the Market engages community members to grow their own food and have access to nutrition and health information. The nutrition stand and research applications create opportunities for Rutgers students to have hands-on experience in nutrition education, research, and working with the community members.

Community Connections project is funded by the Hunger-free Communities initiative of the USDA to establish a food policy council and to improve food security. Through a citywide collaboration, an officially recognized food policy council (New Brunswick Community Food Alliance) has been formed to improve the local food system. Some of the ongoing research action steps include food environment assessments and a healthy food store initiative.

Other Studies

  • Development of Diabetes Communities of Practice within the national Extension system's virtual education and learning environment, eXtension.
  • Epidemiological studies using national datasets, such as NHANES, to examine the proximal (obesity, physical activity, food intake) and distal determinants (socioeconomic factors, food insecurity, acculturation) of health and chronic disease.

Selected Publications

Food Insecurity

  • Fitzgerald N, Hromi-Fiedler A, Segura-Pérez S, Pérez-Escamilla R. (2011). "Food insecurity is related to type 2 diabetes among Latinas." Ethnicity & Disease. 21 (3): 328-334. Available at: http://www.ishib.org/journal/21-3/ethn-21-03-328.pdf.
  • Fitzgerald N, Jang SY. (2009). "Associations of food insecurity, socioeconomic status, and type 2 diabetes among Hispanic and non-Hispanic adults in the NHANES 1999-2004". FASEB J. 23:336.4

Acculturation and Socioeconomic Determinants of Health

  • Fitzgerald, N. (2012). "Acculturation and nutrition research." The Digest. 47(4):1-5. http://www.researchdpg.org/
  • Fitzgerald, N. (2010). "Acculturation, socioeconomic status, and health among Hispanics." Annals of Anthropological Practice. 34(1):28-46. Available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1556-4797.2010.01050.x/full
  • Fitzgerald N, Gabriel S, Himmelgreen D. (2010). "Cultural influences on food intake behavior." In: Colby S, ed. Food Behavior – Why We Eat What We Eat. Kendall Hunt Publishing Company: 123-134

Food Intake, Lifestyle, and Chronic Disease Risk

  • Parekh N, Lin Y, Vadiveloo M, Fitzgerald N, Lu-Yao G. (2010). "Longitudinal associations of physical activity and cancer mortality - the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey." FASEB J. (24):729.1
  • Fitzgerald, N. Parekh, N. (2009) "Vegetable intake as a preventive measure against type 2 diabetes and cancer." In: Papareschi A, Eppolito H, eds. Fruit and Vegetable Consumption and Health. Nova Science Publishers, Inc.: 81-99.
  • Fitzgerald N. (2008). "Sources of nutrition and health information and barriers to healthful eating among adults." J American Dietetic Association. 108(Suppl 3):A-99.
  • Fitzgerald N, Damio G, Segura-Pérez S, Pérez-Escamilla R. (2008). "Nutrition knowledge, food label use, and food intake among Latinas with and without type 2 diabetes." J American Dietetic Association. 108(6):960-967.
  • Fitzgerald, N. (2008). "Overall diet quality." In: Keller KL, ed. Encyclopedia of Obesity. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications:571-574.
  • Fitzgerald N, Devitt A, Minch D, Morgan K, Rochford M. (2008). "Cultural and socioeconomic correlates of food label use and food intake among adults in New Jersey." J Nutrition Education and Behavior. 40(Suppl 4): S33-34.
  • Fitzgerald N, Damio G, Segura-Pérez S, Pérez-Escamilla R. (2007). "Depression among Latinas with and without diabetes." FASEB J. 21: 671.22.
  • Fitzgerald N, Himmelgreen D, Damio G, Segura-Pérez S, Peng YK, Pérez-Escamilla R. (2006). "Acculturation, socioeconomic status, obesity, and lifestyle factors among low-income Puerto Rican women in Connecticut, 1998-1999." Pan American Journal of Public Health/Revista Panamericana de Salud Publica. 19(5):306-313.
  • Fitzgerald N, Bermudez O, Pérez-Escamilla R. (2006). "Waist circumference modifies the relationship between ethnicity/race and type 2 diabetes among adults in the NHANES." FASEB J. 20(5): A1031.

Socioecological Approach, Food Environment, and Food System

  • Fitzgerald N, Finston, L, Morgan K, Hallman W. (2012). "Developing a food policy council through community-based participatory research." FASEB J. 26:389.3.
  • Spalding B, Czarnecki N, Hallman W, Fitzgerald N. (2012). "Can farmers markets improve access and consumption of fruits and vegetables in vulnerable populations?" J Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 112 (in press).
  • Salemi, C, Braco, J, Fitzgerald, N. (2011). "A report of best practices to establish community-based food policy councils."
  • Fitzgerald N. (2011). "New Brunswick Community Healthy Living Index – Afterschool Child Care Assessment report."
  • Fitzgerald N. (2011). "New Brunswick Community Healthy Living Index – Neighborhood Assessment report."
  • Fitzgerald N, Morgan K, Devitt A, Rochford M, Minch D. (2010). "Statewide wellness promotion: Get Moving – Get Healthy New Jersey." J Nutrition Education and Behavior. 40(Suppl 4):S80-81.
  • New Brunswick Community Farmers Market Customer Survey report (2010).
  • Fitzgerald N, Spaccarotella K. (2009). "Barriers to a healthy lifestyle: from individuals to public policy - an ecological perspective." J Extension 47(1). Available at: http://www.joe.org/joe/2009february/a3.php
  • Fitzgerald N, Spaccarotella K. (2008). "Computers and media." In: Keller KL, ed. Encyclopedia of Obesity. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications:161-163.

Research and Educational Methodology

  • Fitzgerald N, Edelman R, Grenci A, Turner C, Mincher D. (2012). Guidelines for developing web-based educational materials. J Nutrition Education and Behavior. 44 (Suppl 4):S35.
  • Fitzgerald N, Grenci A, Turner C, Edelman R, Mincher D. (2011). Developing a web-based educational environment for consumers and professionals to prevent diabetes: Diabetes communities of practice. J Nutrition Education and Behavior. 43 (Suppl 1):S4-5.
  • Chapman-Novakofski K, Fitzgerald N, Serrano E (2010). Good Reviewing Practices. Webinar. Available at: http://www.jneb.org/.