Dr. Steven Gortmaker is Professor of the Practice of Health Sociology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health where he directs the Harvard Prevention Research Center on Nutrition and Physical Activity. 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.
In recent years, Dr. Gortmaker has focused his research on the cost-effectiveness of interventions promoting physical activity and nutrition, aimed at preventing childhood obesity, and is the Principal Investigator of 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 menu calorie labeling to sugar sweetened beverage excise taxes. Results are providing researchers and policymakers with both methods and data to use in deciding on the “best value for money” interventions to reduce obesity prevalence in children and adults in the United States. Dr. Gortmaker oversees development and implementation of the CHOICES microsimulation model, integrating large data sets (such as the US Census, NHANES, BRFSS and national longitudinal studies of growth trajectories) into creation of a virtual population. Dr. Gortmaker oversees the CHOICES team application of the microsimulation model for cost effectiveness modeling. This includes scaling promising policies and programs to local, state or national implementation and projecting impact on population health, population reach, health equity, implementation cost, cost-effectiveness, and health care cost savings as a result of lower obesity prevalence.
Dr. Gortmaker’s research with colleagues has documented the “energy gap” responsible for recent increases in obesity among children and youth in the United States, and the important role played by excess intake of sugar sweetened beverages. He has been an author or coauthor of more than 240 published research articles, including the first report in the United States concerning the obesity epidemic among children and youth. These papers have helped to focus subsequent epidemiologic and intervention work in this field. In addition, Dr. Gortmaker and his colleagues have designed interventions that are low cost, easily disseminated, and sustainable. Such interventions include the school curriculums Planet Health and Eat Well and Keep Moving, the afterschool curriculum Food and Fun (jointly developed with YMCA of the USA), and the Out of School Nutrition and Physical Activity initiative (OSNAP). These intervention studies were evaluated with randomized trials and quasi-experimental designs. Recent studies include a four paper obesity modeling series in the Lancet, and CHOICES papers in Health Affairs, Preventive Medicine and the New England Journal of Medicine.
Dr. Gortmaker earned his PhD from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.