Digital Physical Activity and Diet (dPAD) Collaborative

Maintaining a healthy weight through exercise and diet has been shown to improve quality of life and lower the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases. The Digital Physical Activity and Diet (dPAD) Collaborative’s goal is to bring together researchers who are interested in addressing obesity, diet, and physical activity through technology-based research. To bridge the gap between the continuous advancements of technology with research in exercise, diet, and weight loss, dPAD will serve as a one-stop shop enabling researchers to network with field experts, stay up to date with the latest research and innovation through trainings and seminars, and gain access to resources and tools to test. With technological advancements, scientists and researchers can develop and test scalable programs and measures that can help large numbers of people at a low cost. 

Development and testing of digital tools require a team science approach that brings together expertise in behavior change theory and methods, informatics/analytics, human factors, and engineering. The Digital Physical Activity and Diet (dPAD) Collaborative, a joint core between MD Anderson Cancer Center and University of Texas Health Science Center, can increase investigator expertise and improve the innovation and scientific rigor of obesity-related digital health research by building an intellectual community of investigators focused on this topic and providing core services such as training, expert consultation, resource clearinghouse, and services such as usability testing and harvesting/pre-processing of digital data. This resource will enable investigators in the two institutions to conduct rigorous studies to test digital weight loss, nutrition, and physical activity interventions and assessment tools with high potential for funding, dissemination, and implementation.  


The aims for the dPAD Collaborative in the two-year funding period include:  

(1) To conduct a needs assessment to identify MD Anderson and UTHealth investigators doing relevant research in this space, describe their research, and identify their need for training/consultation, infrastructure/technical capability, and collaborators;  

(2) To provide training and networking activities to support and connect researchers who are using digital health methods with those who are studying and/or intervening to address obesity through diet, physical activity, or social determinants of health (SDOH);  

(3) To create core services based on investigator needs identified in Aim 1, such as an online resource clearinghouse and collaboration platform, consultation/navigation services to advise investigators on and connect them to available resources, and services such as usability testing, measurement of physical activity, accessing and pre-processing of digital device data.  



Dr. Leah Whigham, PhD – Director of UTHealth Center for Community Health Impact (CCHI), UTHealth School of Public Health in El Paso 

Dr. Karen Basen-Engquist, PhD, MPH – Director of the Center for Energy Balance in Cancer Prevention and Survivorship, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center 

Dr. Deanna Holscher, PhD, RD, LD, CNS – Director and John P McGovern Professor in Health Promotion, UTHealth School of Public Health in Austin 

Dr. Sahiti Myneni, PhD, MSE – Associate Professor, UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics 

Dr. Susan Peterson, MPH, PhD – Professor, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center 



Thuan Le, MPH – Program Manager of the Center for Energy Balance in Cancer Prevention and Survivorship, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center 

Kate Faris – Communications Specialist for the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living, UTHealth School of Public Health in Austin 

Asyjia Brown – Research Data Coordinator, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center