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

Photo of Deanna Hoelscher

Regional Dean, UTHealth School of Public Health in Austin
Director, Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living
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.

STREETS (Safe TRavel Environment Evaluation in Texas Schools)

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The STREETS Study (Safe TRavel Environment Evaluation in Texas Schools) is a five-year (2018 – 2023) natural experiment that will evaluate the City of Austin Safe Routes to School program.

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 Stakeholder Interview Project

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The purpose of the School Stakeholder Interview Project (SSIP) was to learn about school stakeholder preferences and priorities to improve Center strategies for recruiting and retaining research study schools and participants, as well as to guide future projects.

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

(McWhorter JW, Raber M, Sharma SV, Moore LS, Hoelscher DM; J Academy Nutr Dietetics; 2018)

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 SV, Vandewater E, Chuang RJ, Byrd-Williams C, Kelder S, Butte N, Hoelscher DM; Child Obes.; 2018)

Improvement in primary care provider self-efficacy and use of patient-centered counseling to address child overweight and obesity after practice-based changes: Texas Childhood Obesity Research Demonstration Study

(Barlow SE, Salahuddin M, Butte NF, Hoelscher DM, Pont SJ; Child Obes.; 2018)

Behavior modification of diet and parent feeding practices in a community vs. primary care-centered intervention for childhood obesity: TX CORD RCT

(Wilson TA, Liu Y, Adolph AL, Sacher PM, Barlow SE, Pont S, Sharma S, Byrd-Williams C, Hoelscher DM, Butte NF; J Nutr Educ Behav.; 2018)

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

(Greene-Cramer B, Harrell MB, Hoelscher DM, Sharma S, Ranjit N, Gupta V, Nazar G, Arora M; Glob Health Promot.; 2018)

Recent News

UTHealth School of Public Health Announces New Regional Dean of Austin Campus

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Dr. Deanna M. Hoelscher, has been named regional dean of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health in Austin, beginning Sept. 1. She will succeed Dr. Cheryl L. Perry, who has been serving as regional dean since the school’s Austin campus was established in 2007.

UTHealth expert participates in international project to tackle adolescent obesity

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Child obesity expert, Deanna Hoelscher, PhD, RD, from the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health in Austin was called upon to help lead a groundbreaking project to involve and empower adolescents in the fight against obesity in Europe.

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.