Get to Know New Center Faculty: Dr. De Moraes

Published: November 11, 2021

Interviewing faculty can be a great way to get to know more about them! Learning more about faculty research and interests can be helpful to students forming their own interests and career goals. 

Dr. Augusto Cesar F. De Moraes recently joined the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living after becoming an assistant professor in the department of epidemiology, human genetics and environmental science at the UTHealth School of Public Health in Austin. Dr. De Moraes was previously at the University of Sao Paulo where he was an Assistant Research Professor and also the Scientific Coordinator for the Youth/Child Cardiovascular Risk and Environmental (YCARE) Research Group. Dr. De Moraes has gained research experience in epidemiology of cardiovascular health, diagnostic methods, environmental and socioeconomic determinants, and lifestyle behaviors. 

His current research interests include determinants of cardiovascular health, multiple lifestyle-related behaviors, possible interactions with environmental determinants in young people from low- and high-income countries, including countries in North America, Latin America, and Europe, evidence-based medicine and public health, and the effectiveness of health behaviors promotion (such as healthy diet and physical activity) policies. 

Dr. De Moraes took the time to answer a few questions we had for him about his experiences in public health and his interests: 

  1. How did your interest in public health begin?

"In Brazil, the health system is majority public and good. I thought that started when my mom was elected as a Chair of the Health Community Board of our neighbor. From that, my mother began to participate in the decisions about the health system for our neighborhood, vaccination, health care for the elderly, etc. Thus, I was an undergraduate and saw how the public health is crucial for us."

  1. What path has your research taken?

"I graduated in Physical Education/Kinesiology, and I was a teacher from kindergarten to high school, so pediatric health always was important to me. Because of this background it was natural to a development research project about healthy behavior and health outcomes in the pediatric population."

  1. In your opinion, what are the most significant public health problems in your field of research?

"Ow, this is a tricky question. In general, is the city environment is not prepared to stimulate active commuting, e.g., walking and cycling. On the other hand, here in the US, the health system should be public, paid by the government, such as Brazil, the UK, and other countries."

  1. With regards to public health, what do you want to see being done now?

"100 or 90% population get the COVID-19 vaccine. Besides this, it is clear the benefits of physical activity, fruit and vegetable (FV) intake for health, it's practice, and consumption are insufficient in the majority of populations. We could promote healthy and safe physical activity practices and supply programs to FV intake, mainly in socioeconomically vulnerable people. "

  1. Do you have a favorite research project that you’ve worked on or one that stands out to you?

"My favorite is SAYCARE Study, a multicenter observational study held in seven South American cities: Buenos Aires (Argentina), Lima (Peru), Medellin (Colombia), Montevideo (Uruguay), Santiago (Chile), and São Paulo and Teresina (Brazil). We evaluate cardiovascular disease risk factors, including eating behaviors, body composition, physical activity, sedentary behaviors, lipid profiles, and cardiovascular health biomarkers, oral health, social conditions, environmental factors and home environment, and their determinants in children and adolescents from ages 3 to 17 in seven South American cities."

  1. What are you working on now that is exciting?

"Yes, every research project I try to challenge myself, right now I to identify longitudinal changes in the pattern of "Ideal Cardiovascular Health" during childhood; as well as to determine the mediator/modifier effects of environmental, socioeconomic, and behavioral variables on the longitudinal pattern this outcome. And also compare machine learning algorithms with clinical-learning predictive models and predict health outcomes in the pediatric population."

  1. What is unique about your research here in the city of Austin?

"My point of view is to combine different areas, geography, medicine, physiology, biostatistics, etc., to understand cardiovascular health, multiple lifestyle-related behaviors, possible interactions with environmental determinants in young people from low- and high-income SES."

  1. What do you like most about working with students/future public health workforce?

"I like to teach students that to understand behavior or a health condition, it is necessary to study different areas of knowledge and teach how epidemiology can explain the world/environment in which we live."

  1. Can you tell me a little bit about your podcast? 

"Lado B da Ciencia, B Side of Science, is a dream project that I develop with my brother in arms, Prof. Francisco Leonardo. It is a scientific communication project trying to reduce the gap between academia and the general population. A phrase I say to every guest scientist is, "Explain as if it were my mother/grandmother can understand." We already have 48 episodes recorded, where we already debate from the science behind wine production to treatment of depression with neuro-modulation. In each episode, we bring a subject and invite an expert to discuss the highlighted results on the particular field."

  1. Is there anything else you would like to add?

"Trust in science, get the vaccine, be active, eat more fruits and vegetables. Support Austin FC and Go Ravens!"