Deanna Hoelscher, PhD, RDN, LD, CNS, FISBNPA

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Director, Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living
John P. McGovern Professor in Health Promotion
Deanna.M.Hoelscher@uth.tmc.edu

Deanna M. Hoelscher, Ph.D., R.D.N., L.D., C.N.S., F.I.S.B.N.P.A, is the John P. McGovern Professor in Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences, founding Director of the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living, and Associate Regional Dean for Research at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health in Austin. A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist licensed in Texas and a Certified Nutrition Specialist, her research interests focus on teaching children and their families how to engage in healthier behaviors to avoid the development of chronic disease, with a special emphasis on low-income and diverse populations. Her work includes research in child and adolescent nutrition, school-and community-based health promotion programs, dietary assessment methodology, evaluation of child obesity policies, linkages between primary care and public health, and dissemination of school health programs. As a faculty member in public health, her mission is to engage in practice-based teaching, research and service, to better mentor the next generation of public health professionals. Dr. Hoelscher co-founded Live Smart Texas in 2007, a statewide coalition that aims to build collaborations across the state to better achieve health outcomes by working together to promote an obesity prevention policy agenda in Texas. She has been the principal investigator of many projects with community-based components, including the Texas Childhood Obesity Research Demonstration Project (TX CORD) funded by the CDC, Lunch is in the Bag funded by NIH, the Texas Childhood Obesity Prevention Policy Evaluation study funded by RWJF, and several different studies to develop and evaluate the school-based Coordinated Approach To Child Health (CATCH) program. She is currently the principal investigator of the School Physical Activity and Nutrition (SPAN) survey funded by the Texas Department of State Health Services; this study established a surveillance system to monitor the prevalence of overweight/obesity in school-aged children in Texas, and has been conducted since 2000.

Dr. Hoelscher was President of the International Society of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (ISBNPA) from 2012 to 2013. She was elected a Fellow of ISBNPA in 2015. Currently, she serves as a Member-at-Large for The Obesity Society, and has held positions at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior. Dr. Hoelscher was a member of the IOM committee on Evaluating Progress of Obesity Prevention Efforts (2013). She was a reviewer on the Institute of Medicine consensus reports on Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake in the United States (2010), School Meals: Building Blocks for Healthy Children (2010), and Nutrition Standards for Foods in Schools: Leading the Way toward Healthier Youth (2007). 

Dr. Hoelscher received her B.S. in food science and technology from Texas A&M University and her M.A. in nutrition and Ph.D. in biological sciences from The University of Texas at Austin.

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Current Projects

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.

Lunch is in the Bag

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The purpose of this intervention is to encourage parents to increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in sack lunches for their preschool children in childcare centers. The goal for this research is the development of new strategies for the promotion of healthy eating practices in children through childcare centers.

CATCH Middle School

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The Central Texas CATCH Middle School Project (CATCH MS) was a school-based health promotion initiative aimed at promoting physical activity, healthy eating and obesity prevention among middle school students living in central Texas.

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.

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.

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.

School Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey (SPAN)

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The SPAN survey was established to track the prevalence of overweight and obese school-aged children in Texas.

Texas Child Obesity Research Demonstration (CORD)

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This project will connect the dots between families, pediatricians, schools and local youth organizations to develop community capacity for early detection and effective management of obesity using evidence-based programs like CATCH and MEND.

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.

Recent Publications

The effect of prenatal maternal cigarette smoking on children’s BMI z-score with SGA as a mediator

(Salahuddin, M., Pérez, A., Ranjit, N., Hoelscher, D.M., Kelder, S.H.; International Journal of Obesity; 2018)

Parent packs, child eats: Surprising results of Lunch is in the Bag's efficacy trial

(Roberts-Gray C, Ranjit N, Sweitzer SJ, Byrd-Williams CE, Romo-Palafox MJ, Briley ME, Hoelscher DM; Appetite; 2018)

Predictors of Severe Obesity in Low-Income, Predominantly Hispanic/Latino Children: The Texas Childhood Obesity Research Demonstration Study

(Salahuddin M, Pérez A, Ranjit N, Kelder SH, Barlow SE, Pont SJ, Butte NF, Hoelscher DM; Preventing Chronic Disease; 2017)

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

(Byrd-Williams CE, Dooley EE, Sharma SV, Chuang RJ, Butte NF, Hoelscher DM; Preventing Chronic Disease; Dec 2017)

Contribution of Beverage Selection to the Dietary Quality of the Packed Lunches Eaten by Preschool-Aged Children

(Maria Jose Romo-Palafox, PhD, RD; Nalini Ranjit, PhD; Sara J. Sweitzer, PhD, RD, LD; Cindy Roberts-Gray, PhD; Courtney E. Byrd-Williams, PhD; Margaret E. Briley, PhD, RD, LD; Deanna M. Hoelscher, PhD, RD, LD, CNS; Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; 2017)

Recent News

UTHealth faculty members recognized by UT System for teaching excellence

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The University of Texas System Board of Regents has awarded its highest honor in recognition of teaching excellence to six exceptional educators at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

Hoelscher named one of Southern Living's "Innovators Changing the South"

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There’s a lot of talk about how school lunches and access to healthy food affects kids, but Deanna Hoelscher does more than talk—she puts her findings into action.

Hoelscher elected as fellow for international health society

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Dr. Deanna Hoelscher has been elected a Fellow of the International Society of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

Childhood Diet Habits Set in Infancy, Studies Suggest

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New York Times - Efforts to improve what children eat should begin before they even learn to walk, a series of nutritional studies published on Tuesday has found. Taken together, the data indicate that infant feeding patterns persist far longer than has been appreciated.

Family-Based Weight Loss

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Today’s Dietitian - April, 2014 - Evidence shows long-term, healthful behavior changes are most successful when the entire family gets involved.