Dr. Shreela Sharma is Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Texas, School of Public Health in Houston, TX. Dr. Sharma is a behavioral epidemiologist with specific interest in food insecurity, nutritional epidemiology and diet-related chronic diseases in vulnerable, underserved populations and has a robust, federally-funded research program in this area. Dr. Sharma has led several different studies to develop and evaluate the CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) program, including CATCH Early Childhood proven to improve obesity prevention among at-risk preschool age children, and the NIH-funded CATCH Healthy Smiles for oral health promotion to prevent dental caries among elementary age children.
More recently, Dr. Sharma is engaged in several COVID-19 related projects including a Texas state-wide COVID-19 Symptom Tracking initiative, conducting rapid analysis of COVID-19 data for the Texas Medical Center, and the local health departments, developing resources such as www.texaspandemic.org, an interactive COVID-19 dashboard providing real-time assessment of the spread of COVID-19 in Texas, assessing the impact of COVID-19 and the related financial crisis on employment, food security, and other social needs among vulnerable populations in Texas, and providing recommendations for public health decision-making. As part of these efforts, Dr. Sharma is co-investigator for the NIH-funded RADx project to increased uptake of COVID-19 testing in high-risk Texas communities.
Dr. Sharma is committed to serving the community; she is co-founder and principal investigator in the evaluation of Brighter Bites, a nationwide non-profit dedicated to providing fresh produce and nutrition education to low-income children and their families. She serves on the Board of Directors for the University of Houston Friends of Women’s and Gender Studies Program. On behalf of UTHealth, Dr. Sharma co-leads the Greater Houston Coalition on Social Determinants of Health, a Harris-county wide effort focused on mitigating food insecurity and other social determinants of health among its residents. She has a PhD in Epidemiology with a minor in biostatistics, and is a registered dietitian in the state of Texas.
This project is a collaborative effort to impact eating behavior among predominantly low-income families by introducing them to a routine distribution of fresh produce and corresponding education, ultimately to curb the childhood obesity epidemic.
CATCH Healthy Smiles teaches students why toothbrushing, flossing, dentist visits, and healthy food and drink choice are important to oral health. Students will learn and practice the skills necessary to maintain healthy smiles.
Houston-area COVID-19 numbers, which declined significantly in late summer, are creeping up again, a concern given the spike predicted when the weather turns colder and people gather indoors for the holidays.