UTH

Shreela V. Sharma, PhD, RD, LD

Photo of Shreela V. Sharma

Professor, Epidemiology, Human Genetics & Environmental Sciences
shreela.v.sharma@uth.tmc.edu

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.

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Current Projects

Brighter Bites

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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.

ENRICH (Encouraging Nurturing Responsiveness to Improve Child Health)

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ENRICH stands for Encouraging Nurturing Responsiveness to Improve Child Health. This research project works to help parents establish healthy eating, activity, bedtime, and screen time routines.

CATCH Healthy Smiles

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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.

CATCH (Coordinated Approach To Child Health)

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CATCH is a research-based program designed to guide schools, families and children in healthy eating and physical activity.

HEAL (Healthy Eating Active Living)

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This project is a clinic-community based intervention to implement an early life-cycle approach to obesity prevention among pregnant women and women with infants from low-income families.

Recent Publications

Measures of Physical Activity and Body Mass Index in Hospital Workers: A Multisite Cross-Sectional Study.

John, J., Swartz, M. D., Hoelscher, D., Huber, C., & Sharma, S. (2019). Journal of occupational and environmental medicine, 61(5), e176–e182.

The Nourish Program: An innovative model for cooking, gardening and clinical care skill enhancement for dietetics students.

McWhorter, J. W., Raber, M., Sharma, S. V., Moore, L. S., & Hoelscher, D. M. (2019). Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 119(2), 199–203.

Maternal Lactase Polymorphism Is Associated with Neural Tube Defects in Offspring in the National Birth Defects Prevention Study.

Hoang, T. T., Lei, Y., Mitchell, L. E., Sharma, S. V., Swartz, M. D., et al. (2019). The Journal of nutrition, 149(2), 295–303.

Interventions targeting diet quality of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants: A scoping review

Verghese, A., Raber, M., & Sharma, S. (2019). Preventive medicine, 119, 77–86.

The Nourish Program: An innovative model for cooking, gardening and clinical care skill enhancement for dietetics students

McWhorter, J. W., Raber, M., Sharma, S. V., Moore, L. S., & Hoelscher, D. M. (2019). Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 119(2), 199–203.

Impact of the Coordinated Approach to Child Health Early Childhood Program for Obesity Prevention among Preschool Children: The Texas Childhood Obesity Research Demonstration Study

Sharma, S. V., Vandewater, E., Chuang, R. J., Byrd-Williams, C., Kelder, S., et al. (2019). Childhood obesity (Print), 15(1), 1–13.

Behavior Modification of Diet and Parent Feeding Practices in a Community- Vs Primary Care-Centered Intervention for Childhood Obesity

Wilson, T. A., Liu, Y., Adolph, A. L., Sacher, P. M., Barlow, S. E., et al. (2019). Journal of nutrition education and behavior, 51(2), 150–161.e1.

Association between parent and child weight status among private school children in Delhi, India

Greene-Cramer, B., Harrell, M. B., Hoelscher, D. M., Sharma, S., Ranjit, N., et al. (2018). Global health promotion, 25(2), 67–74.

Dietary intake, attitudes toward healthy food, and dental pain in low-income youth.

Nicksic, N. E., Massie, A. W., Byrd-Williams, C. E., Kelder, S. H., Sharma, S. V., et al. (2018). JDR clinical and translational research, 3(3), 279–287.

Dietary intake, attitudes toward healthy food, and dental pain in low-income youth

Nicksic, N. E., Massie, A. W., Byrd-Williams, C. E., Kelder, S. H., Sharma, S. V., et al. (2018). JDR clinical and translational research, 3(3), 279–287.

Pilot Evaluation of HEAL - A Natural Experiment to Promote Obesity Prevention Behaviors Among Low-Income Pregnant Women

Sharma, S. V., Chuang, R. J., Byrd-Williams, C., Danho, M., Upadhyaya, M., et al. (2018). Preventive medicine reports, 10, 254–262.

Does the CATCH Early Childhood Program Increases Vigorous Physical Activity among Low-Income Preschoolers? – Results from a Pilot Study

Chuang, R. J., Sharma, S. V., Perry, C., & Diamond, P. (2018). American journal of health promotion : AJHP, 32(2), 344–348.

Best Practices and Barriers to Obesity Prevention in Head Start: Differences Between Director and Teacher Perceptions

Byrd-Williams, C., Dooley, E. E., Sharma, S. V., Chuang, R. J., Butte, N., et al. (2017). Preventing chronic disease, 14.

Best practices and barriers to obesity prevention in Head Start: Baseline differences in director and teacher perceptions from the TX CORD Study

Byrd-Williams, C., Dooley, E. E., Sharma, S. V., Chuang, R. J., Butte, N., et al. (2017). Preventing chronic disease, 14, E139.

Efficacy of a Community- Versus Primary Care-Centered Program for Childhood Obesity: TX CORD RCT

Butte, N. F., Hoelscher, D. M., Barlow, S. E., Pont, S., Durand, C., et al. (2017). Obesity, 25(9), 1584-1593.

Efficacy of a Community- vs. Primary Care-Centered Program for Childhood Obesity: TX CORD RCT

Butte, N. F., Hoelscher, D. M., Barlow, S. E., Pont, S., Durand, C., et al. (2017). Obesity, 25(9), 1584-1593.

Evaluating a school-based fruit and vegetable co-op in low-income children: a quasi-experimental study

Sharma, S. V., Markham, C., Chow, J., Ranjit, N., Pomeroy, M., et al. (2016). Preventive medicine, 91, 8–17.

Mapping of reviews on breastfeeding and obesity risk in children

Newsome, K., Rashid, T., Vonville, H. M., & Sharma, S. V. (2016). Current nutrition reports, 5(4), 255-277.

Brighter Sights: Using Photovoice for a process evaluation of a food co-op style nutrition intervention

Raber, M. P., Lopez, K. K., Pomeroy, M., Mody, A., Markham, C., et al. (2016). Journal of Health Disparities Research and Practice, 9(3), 2.

Are Hospital Workers Healthy?: A Study of Cardiometabolic, Behavioral, and Psychosocial Factors Associated With Obesity Among Hospital Workers

Sharma, S. V., Upadhyaya, M., Karhade, M., Baun, W. B., Perkison, W. B., et al. (2016). Journal of occupational and environmental medicine, 58(12), 1231-1238.

Are Hospital Workers Healthy? A Study of Cardiometabolic, Behavioral, and Psychosocial Factors Associated With Obesity Among Hospital Workers

(Sharma SV, Upadhyaya M, Karhade M, Baun WB, Perkison WB, Pompeii LA, Brown HS, Hoelscher DM; J Occup Environ Med.; 2016)

Effectiveness of the Lunch Is in the Bag Program on Communication Between the Parent, Child and Child-Care Provider Around Fruits, Vegetables and Whole Grain Foods: A Group-Randomized Controlled Trial

(Sharma SV, Rashid T, Ranjit N, Byrd-Williams C, Chuang RJ, Roberts-Gray C, Briley M, Sweitzer S, Hoelscher DM; Preventive Medicine; 2015)

The utility of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) in systems-oriented obesity intervention projects: the selection of comparable study sites for a quasi-experimental intervention design--TX CORD

(Oluyomi AO, Byars A, Byrd-Williams C, Sharma SV, Durand C, Hoelscher DM, Butte NF, Kelder SH; Child Obesity; 2015)

The association between sports participation and dietary behaviors among fourth graders in the School Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey, 2009-2010

(Dortch KS, Gay J, Springer, AE, Kohl, HW, Sharma, SV, Saxton, DL, Hoelscher, DM.; American Journal of Health Promotion, 2014)

Relation of parental practices and home environment to physical activity and television viewing behaviors among low-income, minority preschoolers in Texas

(Chuang RJ, Sharma, SV, Skala K, Evans, AE, Hedberg AM; American Journal of Health Promotion, 2013)

Nutrition-related Knowledge, Attitudes, and Dietary Behaviors Among Head Start Teachers in Texas: A Cross-Sectional Study

(Sharma SV, Byrd-Williams C, Truxillo JB, Rahman GA, Skala K, Hoelscher, DM; Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2013)

Ethnic differences in the home food environment and parental food practices among families of low-income Hispanic and African-American preschoolers

(Skala K, Chuang RJ, Evans AE, Sharma SV; Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, 2013)

Introduction of farm stands in low-income communities increases fruit and vegetable consumption among community residents

(Evans AE, Jennings R, Smiley A, Medina J, Sharma SV, Rutledge R, Stigler MH, Hoelscher DM; Journal of Health & Place , 2012)

Environmental characteristics and student physical activity in PE class: Findings from two large urban areas of Texas

(Skala K, Springer AE, Sharma SV, Hoelscher DM, Kelder SH ; Journal of Physical Activity and Health , 2012)

Long-term physical activity outcomes of home-based lifestyle interventions among breast and prostate cancer survivors

(Ottenbacher A, Day RS, Taylor W, Sharma SV, Sloane R, Synder D, Kraus WE, Lipkus IM, Jones LW, Denmark-Wahnerfried W. ; Supportive Care in Cancer , 2012)

Ethnic differences in the home food environment and parental food practices among families of low-ncome Hispanic and African American preschoolers

(Skala K, Sharma SV, Evans AE, Chuang RJ, Hedberg AM, Dave J ; Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health , 2012)

Reliability and validity of The System for Observing Fitness Instruction Time for Preschoolers (SOFIT-P). Measurement in Physical Education and Exercise Science

(Sharma SV, Atteberry H, Chuang RJ; Measurement in Physical Education and Exercise Science, 2011)

Exercise among breast and prostate cancer survivors - what are their barriers?

(Ottenbacher AO, Day RS, Taylor W, Sharma SV, Sloane R, Snyder D, Kraus WE, Demark-Wahnefried W. ; Journal of Cancer Survivorship: Research and Practice , 2011)

Pilot-testing CATCH Early Childhood: A Preschool-based Healthy Nutrition and Physical Activity Program

(Sharma SV, Chuang RJ, Hedberg AM; Journal of School Health, 2011)

Psychosocial factors influencing calcium intake and bone quality in middle-school girls

(Sharma SV, Hoelscher DM, Kelder SH, Diamond PM, Day RS, Hergenroeder A; Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2011)

Recent News

Culinary Medicine Education Program Shows Positive Outcomes for Low-Income Patients with Diabetes

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A culinary medicine curriculum had a positive impact on certain biometric and diet-related behavioral and psychosocial outcomes among low-income, food-insecure patients with type 2 diabetes participating in a clinic-led food prescription program, according to researchers with The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth Houston).

Lost fitness opportunities mark another pandemic hit for Latinos

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Shreela Sharma, PhD, RDN, was quoted in a Cleveland.com story about the lost fitness opportunities Latinos are facing as a result of the pandemic.

How to weigh coronavirus risks this holiday season

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Shreela Sharma, PhD, RDN, answered a question for The Washington Post about whether communal bowls of dip can again grace potluck tables this holiday season.

Brighter Bites Reveals Results of Its 2020 Voucher Program

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Fresh produce is a cornerstone of our industry, and the importance it has in our everyday lives is immense, both from a trade perspective and as consumers ourselves.

‘COVID 2021 Is Not COVID 2019. It’s Far More Transmissible,’ Says President Of ACCESS Health International

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Dr. Shreela Sharma answered COVID-19 vaccine questions for Houston Public Media’s Town Square listeners in an effort to quell vaccine hesitancy as cases surge among unvaccinated populations. Her comments begin at the 35:30 mark.

Essential Workers Push for Vaccines

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In light of Gov. Greg Abbott’s announcement that the statewide mask mandate would end next week, experts with UTHealth School of Public Health spoke about the importance of continuing to mask up when out in public to slow the spread of COVID-19. Shreela Sharma, PhD, spoke to KTRK-TV Channel 13 during the 6 p.m. newscast.

Epidemiologist Address Mask Order

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In light of Gov. Greg Abbott’s announcement that the statewide mask mandate would end next week, experts with UTHealth School of Public Health spoke about the importance of continuing to mask up when out in public to slow the spread of COVID-19. Shreela Sharma, PhD, spoke to KTRK-TV Channel 13 during the 5 p.m. newscast.

A New Vaccine Hub Is Open In Missouri City. Plus, Doctors Answer Houstonians’ COVID Questions

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Shreela Sharma, PhD, RDN, answered listener questions about the COVID-19 vaccine on Houston Public Media’s Town Square (25 minute mark).

Contact-Tracing Apps Flop in the US

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Despite the proven effectiveness of smartphone contact-tracing applications in reducing COVID-19 cases and deaths, Americans seem to have little interest in using the programs.

Third spike? Officials warn Houston COVID-19 uptick could become a surge

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A rise in COVID-19 cases has health care officials and government leaders pleading with Houstonians: Act now to prevent, or at least minimize, a third wave of infections across Greater Houston.

COVID-19 numbers creeping up again in Houston

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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.

How All Those Personalized Vitamin and Supplement Services Work

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Could a snip of hair or a pinprick of blood be all that's standing between you and a highly optimized version of yourself?

Public health experts launch real-time COVID-19 data dashboard with prediction modeling for Texas

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A new COVID-19 tracking tool that can tell Texans what is happening in real time in their own communities and anticipate how one person can infect dozens more was recently launched by The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

What is keeping the COVID-19 death rate in Texas low?

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Texas has been hit particularly hard by COVID-19. Doctors say the numbers are moving in the wrong direction – except when it comes to deaths. The death rate been declining statewide for the last month. Data from Texas Health and Human Services showed the death rate in Texas peaked on May 26 at 2.7%.

As Restaurants Reopen, Gloves and Masks are the New Key Ingredients

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When Datz Restaurant Group, based in Tampa, Fla., reopened five of its six restaurants over Mother’s Day weekend, employees pitched tents in parking lots to expand outdoor seating, and in compliance with state regulations, limited their dining room capacity to 25 percent.

Can we get ahead of the next surge of coronavirus cases? There’s an app for that.

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Researchers at UTHealth hope more than 1 million Texans will use mobile app to help track symptoms before outbreaks occur.

App helps scientists track COVID-19 symptoms

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A new free research app aims to record users’ COVID19 symptoms, so scientists can learn more about the new virus, understand how it’s spreading and determine hotspots so states would be better suited to focus their resources.

The Epidemiologist in the Living Room

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The UTHealth School of Public Health is meeting students where they are with a new online MPH degree in epidemiology.

Pilot Food as Medicine Program in Texas Shows Promise, Challenges

Residents of North Pasadena, Texas, struggling with food insecurity who obtained “prescriptions” for healthy food from their clinic providers were able to boost their intake of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, beans, and whole grains, in another example of the food as medicine movement that also illustrates some of the challenges with these efforts.

Sugar-Free Diet Sodas Tied to an Increased Risk of Early Death

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Shreela Sharma, associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition specialist at UTHealth School of Public Health, discussed how sugar-free diet sodas are tied to an increased risk of early death.

Brighter Bites Works to Fuel Kids with Healthy Food

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Houston, TX organization Brighter Bites is helping communities in food swamps by empowering food-insecure families themselves to organize for a better food future. “They’re helping to be helped. All those touchpoints with the families create communities through fresh food,” says Brighter Bites co-founder Lisa Helfman.

The 100 coolest people in food and drink

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Inspired by the hugely successful Tech 100, Business Insider is launching its first ever Food 100 — a ranking of the 100 coolest people in the world of food and drink, with a particular focus on Europe and North America.

Are Low-Fat and Low-Carb Diets Compatible?

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IS IT POSSIBLE TO combine a low-fat diet and a low-carbohydrate diet into one healthy eating regimen? Are the two diets – which experts say can both be effective for weight loss – compatible? Or, like oil and water, do the two diets not mix well?

Making healthy options first choice for the whole family

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When eating out, Caroline Urbina chooses grilled chicken over chicken nuggets, broccoli instead of fries, and water rather than soda without hesitation. Smart choices for a 5-year-old faced with a menu full of unhealthy options.

Who should use artificial sweeteners, which ones are best?

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Shreela Sharma, associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition specialist at UTHealth School of Public Health, analyzed these artificial sweeteners to determine who should use which.

Food Pouches Lack Nutritional Value Compared to Whole Foods

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Shreela Sharma, PhD, RD, was interviewed on FOX 26 News for a segment about the nutritional value of food pouches.

Do's and don'ts for microwaving food

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A study published in the Journal of Food Science cooked 20 different vegetables, finding that microwaving and baking preserved nutrients better than boiling. Proving you can use your microwave to defrost, cook and make nutritious foods. Shreela Sharma, dietitian at UT Health School of Public Health, says there are just a few rules to doing it safely.

2019’s Fattest Cities in America

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Americans are the fattest people in the world, not just stereotypically but statistically too. In fact, almost 40% of the U.S. population aged 15 and older is obese.

Got Milk? The Benefits for Students and the Alternatives

Shreela Sharma, PhD, RD, was interviewed on FOX 26 News for a back-to-school segment about the benefits of and alternatives to milk for children.

Health Conscious or Health Hazardous? A Dietitian Takes on Trendy Eating Plans For Kids

Whether it's to lose weight, keep up with a social cause, or boost health, maintaining a strict diet is a fact of life for many adults. But what are the rules of engagement when it comes to your kids? Dr. Shreela Sharma, a registered dietician and associate professor at UTHealth School of Public Health, details common eating regimens that parents often contemplate extending to their children.

Are your snacks as healthy as you think?

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In a WSAV News 3 Today story, Shreela Sharma, Ph.D., R.D., discussed popular unhealthy snacks that could be hampering your weight loss efforts.

Food Addiction

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Chocolate, potato chips, French fries — many of us find it difficult to eat just a bite or two of a sweet or salty food. But at what point does eating unhealthy foods excessively actually become problematic?

Are your snacks sabotaging your diet?

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In a KPRC-TV Channel 2 story, Shreela Sharma, Ph.D., R.D., discussed popular unhealthy snacks that could be hampering your weight loss efforts.

Edible Insects? Here Are 13 Radical Diet Changes You’ll See in 10 Years

Associate Professor at the Center, Shreela Sharma, PhD, RD, LD, shared thoughts into how our diets may change over the next ten years over at Reader's Digest!

Eggs OK, limit sugar for a healthy diet, guidelines say

HOUSTON CHRONICLE - Jan. 7, 2016 - For egg-lovers, the latest federal dietary guidelines are reason for excitement. But if you love your sugary drinks and salty meats the news isn't as satisfying.

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