Dr. Erica Kenney is Research Associate at the Harvard Prevention Research Center on Nutrition and Physical Activity at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The mission of the Prevention Research Center is to work with community partners to design, implement, and evaluate programs that improve nutrition and physical activity, and reduce obesity and chronic disease risk among children, youth, and their families; and to reduce and eliminate disparities in these outcomes. At the PRC, Dr. Kenney collaborates with colleagues and community partners to identify and evaluate usable strategies for increasing drinking water access and reducing intake of sugary drinks in school, afterschool, and child care settings.
Dr. Kenney also serves as a Co-Investigator for the CHOICES (Childhood Obesity Intervention Cost-Effectiveness Study) Project. This project is focused on understanding and modeling the cost-effectiveness of interventions that can improve children’s nutrition and physical activity and reduce the prevalence of obesity, which includes modeling work, evidence reviews, and simulation modeling of the cost-effectiveness of a wide variety of interventions, from restaurant calorie menu labeling to sugar sweetened beverage excise taxes. In addition to studying the cost-effectiveness of different policy strategies to prevent childhood obesity in early care and education settings, she is exploring the ways in which digital device use by parents and children may influence obesity risk as well as other health behaviors. Dr. Kenney focuses on models of strategies in the early care, out of school time and school settings.
Trained in social epidemiology and planned behavior change, Dr. Kenney’s research focuses on identifying successful, efficient, and cost-effective strategies to modify children’s environments to make the healthiest choice the easiest choice and to help children form healthy habits for life. Through conducting both intervention studies and epidemiological studies, her work is grounded in social ecological theory and the investigation of how children’s environments can be feasibly changed to promote healthy eating habits and less screen time. This has resulted in work on developing valid, easy-to-use measures of dietary intake, feeding behaviors, nutrition policies, and the nutrition environment in child care and school settings; conducting and evaluating randomized, controlled trials of school- and afterschool-based interventions; and analyzing national datasets to identify important determinants of nutrition behaviors and obesity risk for children.
Dr. Kenney earned her Doctor of Science degree from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, a Master of Public Health degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences from the Yale School of Public Health, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education from Brown University.