Healthy Eating Research

Building Evidence to
Prevent Childhood Obesity

Senior Program Advisers

The senior program advisory panel for Healthy Eating Research is a group of individuals with expertise in areas relevant to the Healthy Eating Research agenda. The senior program advisory panel assists in strategic planning, review of the research proposals, and making funding recommendations to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Shiriki Kumanyika, PhD, MPH serves as chair of the panel.

The senior program advisory panel includes:


Guadalupe X. “Suchi” Ayala, PhD, MPH

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Guadalupe X. “Suchi” Ayala, PhD, MPH is a Professor in the Division of Health Promotion in the Graduate School of Public Health at San Diego State University, Co-Director of the San Diego Prevention Research Center, and Senior Core Investigator of the Institute for Behavioral and Community Health. She has an MA in Experimental Social Psychology (1997), an MPH in Health Promotion (2002) and a PhD in Clinical Health Psychology from the San Diego State University-University of California San Diego Joint Doctoral Program (2002). She completed her clinical residency at the University of Washington, School of Medicine and began her faculty career at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, School of Public Health. Currently, she is Principal Investigator of five interventions targeting diet, physical activity, and chronic disease management, and one observational study on Latino youth. The first study, funded by the National Cancer Institute, is testing the efficacy of an environmental change intervention in grocery stores to increase access to and sales of fruits and vegetables, as well as consumption among store customers. The second study, funded by the American Cancer Society, is testing the efficacy of an intervention to improve family functioning to promote consumption of fruits and vegetables. The third study, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the San Diego Prevention Research Center, is testing the effectiveness of a promotor-based intervention to promote physical activity among residents of South San Diego County. The fourth study, funded by the Peers for Progress network, is evaluating a volunteer peer support intervention to promote diabetes control. In September 2011, she was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to lead one of three studies to address the problem of childhood obesity. In addition to her intervention research, she is Principle Investigator of a multi-site epidemiological study examining the health of children of parents involved in the NHLBI-funded Hispanic Community Health Study (Proyecto SOL). Her research activities have produced over 80 manuscripts and book chapters. She teaches courses in health communication and grant writing to doctoral students.


Frank J. Chaloupka, PhD

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Frank J. Chaloupka, PhD is a Distinguished Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), where he has been on the faculty since 1988. He is currently Director of the UIC Health Policy Center and holds appointments in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Department of Economics and the School of Public Health’s Division of Health Policy and Administration. He is a Fellow at the University of Illinois’ Institute for Government and Public Affairs, and is a Research Associate in the National Bureau of Economic Research’s Health Economics Program and Children’s Program. Dr. Chaloupka is Director of ImpacTeen: A Policy Research Partnership for Healthier Youth Behavior and Co-Director of the International Tobacco Evidence Network. An economist, Dr. Chaloupka earned his BA from John Carroll University in 1984 and his PhD from the City University of New York Graduate School and University Center. Numerous professional publications and presentations have resulted from Dr. Chaloupka’s research on the effects of national, state, and local policies and other environmental influences on youth, young adult, and adult cigarette smoking, alcohol use, illicit drug use, physical activity, diet, and related outcomes.


Tracy A. Fox, MPH, RD

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Tracy A. Fox, MPH, RD is President of Food, Nutrition & Policy Consultants, LLC. She has over 25 years of experience working in the federal government and the private sector, and has extensive experience in federal nutrition policy. Her clients include or have included the US Department of Agriculture, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute, non-profit organizations like the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation where she works on Federal policy issues, Action for Healthy Kids, Feeding America, Produce for Better Health Foundation, the National Food Service Management Institute and public relations firms, where she provides advice and consultation on policy and nutrition initiatives. Areas of expertise include child nutrition and school health, federal, state, and local nutrition policy, advocacy and government relations. She has served on numerous boards and committees including the Institute of Medicine front of pack, school foods and local actions to prevent childhood obesity committees. She is Past-President of the Society for Nutrition Education and is a retired Commander in the US Navy.


Steven Gortmaker, PhD

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Steven Gortmaker, PhD is Professor of the Practice of Health Sociology in the Department of Society, Human Development and Health at the Harvard School of Public Health, where he has been a member of the faculty for the past 30 years. He received his undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan and his PhD at the University of Wisconsin. Dr. Gortmaker teaches courses on the methods of social and behavioral research. His research interests include the social demography of chronic childhood conditions, the social epidemiology of childhood obesity, including the effects of inactivity (exemplified by television viewing), physical activity, dietary behavior and environmental determinants of these behaviors. Dr. Gortmaker has been an author or coauthor of more than 155 published research articles, including the first reports in the United States concerning the obesity epidemic among children and youth in 1987 and the first study linking excess television viewing to obesity. Dr. Gortmaker directs The Harvard Prevention Research Center (HPRC). The HPRC’s mission is to work with community partners to design, implement, and evaluate programs that improve physical activity and diet and decrease inactivity and reduce chronic disease risk among children and youth. The HPRC receives core funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Shiriki Kumanyika, PhD, MPH

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Shiriki Kumanyika, PhD, MPH has an interdisciplinary background and holds advanced degrees in social work, nutrition, and public health. She is a Professor of epidemiology (Departments of Biostatistics and Epidemiology and Pediatrics (Nutrition)), Senior Scholar in the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and the Associate Dean for health promotion and disease prevention at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. She is also Senior Advisor to Penn’s University-wide Center for Public Health Initiatives. Dr. Kumanyika has served as principal investigator or co-investigator on several randomized multi-center and single-center clinical trials related to diet, obesity, weight control, and cardiovascular disease risk. She is currently studying factors associated with success among African American participants in weight control programs and influences of food marketing environments on African American food purchasing behaviors. Dr. Kumanyika has served on numerous advisory or expert panels related to nutrition and chronic disease research and policy, both nationally and internationally and chairs the Institute of Medicine Committee on Prevention of Obesity in Children and Youth. She is founder and chair of the African American Collaborative Obesity Research Network (AACORN). Founded in 2002, AACORN was created to improve the quantity, quality, and effective translation of research to address obesity in African American communities. In particular, AACORN works to stimulate and support greater participation in framing and implementing obesity research by investigators who have both social and cultural grounding in African American life experiences and obesity-related scientific expertise. AACORN is supported by a grant from the RWJF.