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Principle Investigator: Barry Popkin


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Research Projects






The Research Program

Our research program is based on a major focus on in-depth longitudinal surveys that rely on snapshots of populations living under natural conditions. Basic elements of all the surveys include:

    • Detailed collection of income, education, demographic, and other socioeconomic data
    • Measures of body composition, physical activity and inactivity, and dietary intake
    • Measures of many other intermediate health-related behaviors and outcomes
    • Collection of data at the community, household, and individual levels.



Our group's contribution is the focus on measurement of detailed environmental factors. Using spatial coordinates for each respondent, we are measuring access to recreation facilities (e.g., private and public facilities, parks, recreation centers, green spaces, and shopping centers), transportation options (sidewalks, bike paths, public transportation, road networks, and transportation density), proximity of road safety hazards and air pollution (car-related and other), and community safety. We will link price data (cigarettes, food, cost of living) for all periods. This sequence is being done for each time period for all respondents.

Unique Perspective

This group of researchers combines the skills and interests of economists with those of public health nutritionists and biomedical scientists to develop both unique data sets and ways of examining dietary patterns and trends. It is clear that there are considerable worldwide changes in food technology and marketing, the technology of work away from and inside the home and leisure, income, prices, the size and spatial distribution of the world's population, among others. The range of macro changes combined with complex changes at the community and household level are producing remarkable shifts in food selection and eating behavior, in physical activity and inactivity patterns, and an array of other nutrition-related behaviors (e.g., smoking) of individuals and populations.

A longitudinal approach is essential to the study of nutritional change because a panel design permits correct temporal sequencing of hypothesized causes and effects. Behaviors can be examined subsequent to the social or economic change presumed to be responsible. They can be linked with biological antecedents and consequences.

Ultimately, such complex studies must link communities, households, and individuals. The mechanisms through which private market and public policy operate to affect our selected outcomes involve household and individual response to the implementation of programs at the community level (e.g., changes in prices, point of purchase marketing, or food availability). This is the focus of much of our research.