Department Chair, Nutrition
Maternal and child health in racial/ethnic minorities and low-income populations (local, national and global settings), breastfeeding and lactation/human milk, community-based research, prevention of childhood obesity
100 Holdsworth Way
Amherst , MA 01003-9282
My research interests are strongly influenced by my professional background in dietetics, lactation care/management and community health programming for at-risk women and children, coupled with community-engaged research in the area of breastfeeding and human milk. I use a life-course framework that integrates research, education, and extension outreach to improve health outcomes among women and children vulnerable to health disparities. Consequently, my research seeks to identify early risk factors at the individual, community, and institutional levels in the population groups I work with; and to develop multilevel interventions that contribute to improved health outcomes throughout the life course of vulnerable women, infants, and children.
1. Fruit and vegetable intervention in lactating women to reduce breast cancer risk: effects on breast cell DNA methylation, breast inflammation, and weight. NIH R01: The overall objective of this randomized controlled trial is to determine the extent to which a high fruit and vegetable diet can moderate inflammatory signals associated with breast cancer risk, and prevent excessive maternal weight retention/gain. https://blogs.umass.edu/newmomswellness/
2. BCAC (Breastfeeding Community Action Coalition): BCAC is a Springfield-based community-engaged partnership focused on tackling breastfeeding inequities through development and evaluation of interventions/programs aimed at increasing breastfeeding initiation and duration rates among African American women. Breastfeeding has a significant protective impact on maternal and child health outcomes, including its role in infant survival and decreased risk of infant mortality.
3. Identifying Mechanisms of Peer Influence on Youth Weight-Related Behaviors — the FAST (Food Activity Screen Time) project. NIH R01: The purpose of this longitudinal study is to identify the mechanisms of action underlying peer influence on health behaviors by analyzing social network and weight-related behavior data in a cohort of diverse young adolescents during their middle school years (sixth to eighth grade). Outcomes of the study can identify novel intervention strategies effective in motivating health behavior change among youth.
4. World University Network (WUN): A multidisciplinary network of international researchers, collaborating on studies focused on the African Child and Youth Well-being in the Context of Migration and Displacement.