Alexandra (Sandra) van den Berg, PhD

Photo of Alexandra (Sandra) van den Berg

Associate Director of the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living
Professor, Health Promotion & Behavioral Sciences

Dr. Alexandra van den Berg is an 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 (UTSPH) Regional Campus at Austin. She received her Master of Public Health degree from the University of Texas 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 15 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 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)

Thumbnail image for Texas Childhood Obesity Prevention Policy Evaluation (T-COPPE)

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.

GO! Austin / ¡VAMOS! Austin (GAVA)

Thumbnail image for GO! Austin / ¡VAMOS! Austin (GAVA)

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

Recent Publications

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)

Effect Of Neighborhood-unit Definition On The Relationship Between Physical Activity And The Built Environment: 3667 Board #114 June 3 8

(Salvo D, Durand CP, Evans AE, Perez A, Kohl, HW III; Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise; 2017)

Healthy eating patterns associated with acculturation, sex, and BMI among Mexican Americans

(Reininger B, Lee M, Jennings R, Evans A, Vidoni M; Public Health Nutrition; 2016)

Impact of school-based vegetable garden and physical activity coordinated health interventions on weight status and weight-related behaviors of ethnically diverse, low-income students: Study design and baseline data of the Texas, Grow! Eat! Go!...

(Evans A, Ranjit N, Hoelscher D, Jovanovic C, Lopez M, McIntosh A, Ory M, Whittlesey L, McKyer L, Kirk A, Smith C, Walton C, Heredia N, Warren J; BMC Public Health; 2016)

Assessing environmental assets for health promotion program planning: a practical framework for health promotion practitioners

(Springer A, Evans, A; Health Promot Perspect; 2016)

Recent News

UTSPH partners on gardening initiative to fight childhood obesity

The use of family-focused gardening in the fight against childhood obesity may become a growing trend with a near $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to a Texas higher education partnership.