Alexandra (Sandra) van den Berg, MPH, PhD

Photo of Alexandra (Sandra) van den Berg

Associate Director, Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living
Professor, Health Promotion & Behavioral Sciences
alexandra.e.vandenberg@uth.tmc.edu

Dr. Alexandra van den Berg is a Professor of Behavioral Sciences and Health Promotion in the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living (the Center) at The University of Texas Houston School of Public Health in Austin. She received her Master of Public Health degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health. Subsequently, she received her PhD from the University of Texas and completed a NCI post-doctoral fellowship under the leadership of Dr. Hoelscher.

Dr. van den Berg has over 20 years of experience in the development and evaluation of environmental and behaviorally-based nutrition and physical activity school-based and community interventions targeting children and families, with a focus on underserved families. Her research can be described by three broad themes:1) development, implementation and evaluation of cost-effective and sustainable interventions that increase access to healthy foods and promote sustainable local food systems; 2) examination of the relationship between environmental factors and subsequent health behaviors of children and their families; and 3) investigation of the role of health education/promotion in optimizing behavioral responses of children and their families to their environments.

Dr. van den Berg is currently the Principal Investigator (PI) of the GAVA (the Go Austin!/Vamos Austin!) study which is a community based, multi-component obesity intervention designed to synergistically target the built and policy environments in low-income communities using a coalition-driven, system approach to produce changes that are designed to comprehensively address the obesogenic environment of children and adults. She is also the PI of a study measuring the impact of different strategies to increase access to healthy foods in low-income communities: mobile food trucks, school farm stands and a healthy corner stores initiative. In addition, she is also a Co-I on the NIH-funded SPROUTS study, which measures the impact of school gardens on low-income families’ nutritional status. She recently completed 2 large studies including a 5-year USDA-funded randomized controlled trial (Texas, Grow, Eat, Go!) to study the effects of school garden-based and physical activity programs on children’s obesity status and their dietary and physical activity behaviors and a large policy evaluation study measuring the impact of two state and federal policies affecting young children’s eating and physical activity behaviors (T-COPPE).

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Current Projects

Texas SNAP-Ed Evaluation

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Texas SNAP-Ed Evaluation, is a two-year project to evaluate, on a statewide basis, the effectiveness of SNAP-Ed nutrition education and obesity prevention programming activities delivered by Implementing Agencies throughout the state of Texas.

Texas GROW! EAT! GO!

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This project will test the impact of several different programs on behaviors related to childhood obesity including, a hands-on family-focused gardening program and a fun school-based walking program for kids.

Texas Childhood Obesity Prevention Policy Evaluation (T-COPPE)

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This project is a collaborative effort that will study the impact of two recent policies: the Safe Routes to School program and an important rule revision to the federal food allocation package administered by the Texas Women, Infants and Children program.

FRESH-AUSTIN

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Food Retail: Evaluating Strategies for a Healthy Austin (FRESH-AUSTIN) aims to further evaluation of the City of Austin's Healthy Food Access Initiative, and increase understanding of the complexities within a community food system.

GO! Austin / ¡VAMOS! Austin (GAVA)

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GAVA is a coalition of residents, community leaders and nonprofits dedicated to improving the health of children in Dove Springs and 78745.

Recent Publications

Design and participant characteristics of TX Sprouts: A school-based cluster randomized gardening, nutrition, and cooking intervention.

(Davis JN, Nikah K, Asigbee FM, Landry MJ, Vandyousefi S, Ghaddar R, Hoover A, Jeans M, Pont SJ, Richards D, Hoelscher DM, van den Berg AE*, Bluestein M, Perez A. Contemporary Clinical Trials. 2019, 85:105834.)

Design and evaluation of a coalition-led obesity initiative to promote healthy eating and physical activity in low-income, ethnically diverse communities: the Go! Austin/Vamos! Austin initiative

van den Berg, A., Nielsen, A., Akhavan, N., Llanes Pulido, C., Basu, S., Hussaini, A., Jovanovic, C., Janda, K., Denis, L., and Ranjit, N. (2019). Design and evaluation of a coalition-led obesity initiative to promote healthy eating and physical activity in low-income, ethnically diverse communities: the Go! Austin/Vamos! Austin initiative. Archives of Public Health, 77(25).

Examining the Role of Income Inequality and Neighborhood Walkability on Obesity and Physical Activity Among Low-Income Hispanic Adults

(Towne S, Lopez M, Li Y, Smith M, Warren J, Evans A, Ory M; Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health; 2018)

The SNAP GAP

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10/1/17 - The SNAP GAP: Why income-eligible individuals are not enrolling in SNAP

Health by Design: Interweaving Health Promotion into Environments and Settings

(Andrew E. Springer, Alexandra E. Evans, Jaquelin Ortuño, Deborah Salvo, Maria Teresa Varela Arévalo; Frontiers in Public Health 5; 2017)

Recent News

Review: Evaluation of the Go! Austin/Vamos! Austin Initiative

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The Go! Austin/Vamos! Austin (GAVA) is a coalition of neighbors and community partners which organizes and mobilizes community efforts in ways that reduce barriers and increase institutional capacity in low-income communities. READ MORE.

$4.4 Million For 2018 Nutrition And Food Access Research Award Winners

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Dr. Alexandra van den Berg Ph.D, along with a research team, will use the nearly $1 million grant to develop a quasi-experimental longitudinal study designed to capture the impact of new food access points on consumption, food security, and obesity.