How Economic and Neighborhood Factors Modify Effects of School Obesity Policies


With this grant, Dr. Daniel Taber examines how economic, environmental, and policy measures in the community (e.g., taxes, zoning laws) modify the effects of school-based legislation. His research includes system dynamics modeling designed to simulate the comprehensive effect of policies in different sectors. Many experts have recommended applying systems science to obesity policy research, but the application of systems science has been largely theoretical. Dr. Taber received introductory training in system dynamics at the 2011 Institute on Systems Science and Health (ISSH) and is now proposing to pursue in-depth training in this field. His training will include formal coursework in system dynamics, one-on-one training in economic and environment policy initiatives, and one-on-one training in economic methods of studying disparities and policy initiatives.

To achieve these goals, he has assembled a mentoring team with expertise in public policy (Jamie Chriqui, PhD), economics (Frank Chaloupka, PhD), and system dynamics (Hazhir Rahmandad, PhD, of Virginia Tech). Dr. Chriqui and Dr. Chaloupka have decades of experience studying economic and environmental policies related to substance abuse, and are currently conducting ground-breaking research to study whether such policies can prevent obesity. Dr. Rahmandad was Dr. Taber’s instructor at ISSH, earned his PhD in system dynamics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and is currently conducting obesity research to study the dynamics of energy balance.

With guidance from his mentors, Dr. Taber is studying whether economic and environmental characteristics in the community modify the effects of school-based policies, analyze whether such characteristics contribute to racial/ethnic disparities in weight status and policy effectiveness, and apply system dynamics to analyze the impact that policy initiatives in different sectors have on diet, weight status, and racial/ethnic disparities in weight status among adolescents. This research will form the basis of an R01 application in which he will design more intensive system dynamics research to study the effects of obesity policies, and he will complete this application by the end of the R00 phase of this award.

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About this grant

This is a K99/R00 NIH Pathway to Independence Award. The grant, awarded in two phases, covers two years of mentored support (K99) followed by three years of independent research (R00). This grant was transferred to the University of Texas Health Science Center in Austin when Dr. Taber became a faculty member there. 

Related publications

Taber DR, Criqui JF, Vuillaume R, Chaloupka FJ. How state taxes and policies targeting soda consumption modify the association between school vending machines and student dietary behaviors: a cross-sectional analysis PLoS One. 2014 Aug 1. [See abstract.]

Taber DR, Chriqui JF, Chaloupka FJ. State laws governing school meals and disparities in fruit/vegetable intake. Am J Prev Med. 2013 Apr;44(4):365-72. [See abstract.]