Director, Center for Health Behavior Research

Dr. Jun Ma is a professor of academic internal medicine and geriatrics and associate head for research in the Department of Medicine. She also directs IHRP’s Center for Health Behavior Research and is an IHRP Fellow. With a broad background in preventive medicine, nutritional science, and biometry, she specializes in clinical and translational lifestyle medicine research in primary care and nonmedical community settings.

Dr. Ma directs an integrative precision lifestyle medicine and translation research portfolio. Since 2008, she has secured more than $15 million in NIH and AHRQ funding as the principal investigator of innovative lifestyle intervention research studies that address highly intractable health problems and disparities among racially/ethnically and socioeconomically diverse adult populations in private mixed-payer, managed care, and public health systems, as well as in communities.

She is one of the principal investigators of PREMIER, an NIH-funded postdoctoral training program for precision lifestyle medicine. Learn more.

She has directed the development and publication of new randomization methods and tools, including a Web-based comprehensive system for minimization methods. In addition to her experience leading experimental research, ranging from pilot randomized studies to multicenter pragmatic trials, she has often published on national patterns of outpatient care quality and disparities in lifestyle-related physical and mental health disorders using complex population survey data, such as the National Ambulatory Care Surveys and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

In January 2017, Dr. Ma was elected to the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research, an international honorary society recognizing senior scientists for their research excellence in behavioral medicine.

Before joining the UIC faculty in 2015, Dr. Ma was a senior scientist at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation Research Institute and a consulting professor in Stanford University's Department of Medicine, with which she continues to collaborate on research. She is a Fellow of the American Heart Association and serves on the AHA Council on Epidemiology and Prevention and the AHA Council on Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health.

Dr. Ma earned her doctorate in nutritional sciences from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and her medical degree from West China University of Medical Sciences in Chengdu, Sichuan, China, with an emphasis in preventive medicine.

Research Interests

Dr. Ma's research focuses on new delivery models and neurophysiological mechanisms of behavior change interventions addressing multiple major chronic conditions that are the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the United States, including obesity, coronary heart disease, hypertension, prediabetes, metabolic syndrome, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and depression. 

She is particularly interested in effective prevention and control of these debilitating and costly chronic conditions through comprehensive, mechanism-driven lifestyle interventions that are individual patient-centered and, at the same time, scalable and sustainable for population health management through use of Internet and mobile technologies. She is strongly committed to lifestyle intervention research specifically targeting underserved populations, such as Latinos.

Recent and Noteworthy Publications

Azar KMJ, Bennet G, Nolting LA, Rosas LG, Burke LE, Ma J. A framework for examining the function of digital health technologies for weight management. Transl Behav Med. 2017 (in press).

Ma J, Lewis MA, Smyth JM. Translational behavioral medicine for population and individual health: gaps, opportunities, and vision for practice-based translational behavior change research. Transl Behav Med. 2017 (in press). (The three authors contributed equally to this study.)

Nyenhuis S, Dixon A, Ma J. Impact of lifestyle interventions targeting healthy diet, physical activity and weight loss on asthma in adults: What is the evidence? J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract. 2017 Dec 5. [See abstract

Williams LM, Pines AR, Goldstein-Piekarskia AN, Rosas LG, Kullar M, Sacchet MD, Gevaert O, Bailenson J, Lavori PW, Dagum P, Wandell B, Greenleaf W, Suppes T, Perry LM, Smyth JM, Lewis MA, Venditti EM, Snowden MB, Simmons JM, Ma J. The ENGAGE study: Integrating neuroimaging, virtual reality and smartphone sensing to understand self-regulation for managing depression and obesity in a precision medicine model. Behav Res Ther. 2017 Oct 7. [See abstract]

Ma J, Xiao L, Lv N, Rosas LG, Lewis MA, Goldhaber-Fiebert JD, Venditti EM, Snowden MB, Lesser L, Ward E. Profiles of sociodemographic, behavioral, clinical and psychosocial characteristics among primary care patients with comorbid obesity and depression. Prev Med Reports. 2017;8:42-50. [See abstract]

Lv N, Azar KMJ, Rosas LG, Wulfovichd S, Xiao L, Ma J. Behavioral lifestyle interventions for moderate and severe obesity: A systematic review. Prev Med. 2017 Jul;100:180-193. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2017.04.022. [See abstract]

Smyth JM, Juth V, Ma J, Sliwinski M. A slice of life: Ecologically valid methods for research on social relationships and health across the lifespan. Soc Personal Psychol Compass. 2017;e12356. doi: 10.1111/spc3.12356.[See abstract]

Rosas LG, Lv N, Xiao L, Lewis MA, Zavella P, Kramer MK, Luna V, Ma J. Evaluation of a culturally-adapted lifestyle intervention to treat elevated cardiometabolic risk of Latino adults in primary care (Vida Sana): A randomized controlled trial. Contemp Clin Trials. 2016 May;48:30-40. [See abstract.]

Ma J, Rosas LG, Lv N. Precision lifestyle medicine: a new frontier in the science of behavior change and population health. Am J Prev Med. 2016 Mar;50(3):395-7. [See abstract.]

Ma J, Strub P, Lv N, Xiao L, Camargo CA Jr, Buist AS, et al. Pilot randomised trial of a healthy eating behavioural intervention in uncontrolled asthma. Eur Respir J. 2016 Jan;47(1):122-32. [See abstract.]

Lv N, Xiao L, Ma J. Weight management interventions in adult and pediatric asthma populations: a systematic review. J Pulm Respir Med. 2015;5(232). [See abstract.]

Rosas LG, Lv N, Azar K, Xiao L, Yank V, Ma J. Applying the Pragmatic-Explanatory Continuum Indicator Summary model in a primary care-based lifestyle intervention trial. Am J Prev Med. 2015;49(3 Suppl 2):S208-14. [See abstract.]

Burke LE, Ma J, Azar KM, Bennett GG, Peterson ED, Zheng Y, et al. Current science on consumer use of mobile health for cardiovascular disease prevention: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2015;132(12):1157-213. [See abstract.]

Ma J, Yank V, Lv N, Goldhaber-Fiebert JD, Lewis MA, Kramer MK, et al. Research aimed at improving both mood and weight (RAINBOW) in primary care: A type 1 hybrid design randomized controlled trial. Contemp Clin Trials. 2015;43:260-78. [See abstract.]

Rosas LG, Thiyagarajan S, Goldstein BA, Drieling RL, Romero PP, Ma J, Yank V, Stafford RS. The effectiveness of two community-based weight loss strategies among obese, low-income US Latinos. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2015;115(4):537-50.e2. [See abstract.]

Ma J, Strub P, Xiao L, Lavori PW, Camargo CA Jr, Wilson SR, Gardner CD, Buist AS, Haskell WL, Lv N. Behavioral weight loss and physical activity intervention in obese adults with asthma. A randomized trial. Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2015;12(1):1-11. [See abstract.]

Tsai SA, Lv N, Xiao L, Ma J. Gender differences in weight-related attitudes and behaviors among overweight and obese adults in the United States. Am J Mens Health. 2015 Jan 15. [Epub ahead of print]. [See abstract.]

Collins BF, Ramenofsky D, Au DH, Ma J, Uman JE, Feemster LC. The association of weight with the detection of airflow obstruction and inhaled treatment among patients with a clinical diagnosis of COPD. Chest. 2014;146(6):1513-20. [See abstract.]

Azar KM, Xiao L, Ma J. Baseline obesity status modifies effectiveness of adapted diabetes prevention program lifestyle interventions for weight management in primary care. Biomed Res Int. 2013;2013:191209. [See abstract.]

Honors and Awards

IHRP Fellow