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.
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.
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.
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.