Digital Physical Activity and Diet (dPAD) Collaborative

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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. 

Center for Energy Balance Research Seminar

March 21, 2024

12-1 PM CT

Zoom webinar: link here

The Center for Energy Balance in Cancer Prevention and Survivorship’s monthly trans-disciplinary research seminar aims to bring researchers from multiple disciplines together to examine different energy balance-related topics. Co-Sponsored by the digital Physical Activity and Diet Collaborative (dPAD), join us in the month of March as we welcome Brie Turner-McGrievy, PhD, MS, RD, FTOS from the University of South Carolina as she speaks on her topic, Using technology to deliver evidence-based nutrition and weight loss interventions.

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. 

Sign up for the dPAD newsletter to get updates on upcoming office hours, events, and resources.


AIM Shared Resources – the Assessment, Intervention and Measurement (AIM) core is a shared resource that provides expertise in the science of collecting and managing patient-reported outcome (PRO) data, conducting assessments and interventions in energy balance research, and conducting behavioral assessment and intervention development utilizing web, mobile, and other technology applications. 

Bionutrition Resource Core – the mission of the Bionutrition Research Core is to facilitate state-of-the-art nutritional science research by providing the resources, expertise, and infrastructure necessary to: 1) conduct control human feeding studies and dietary interventions and 2) accurately assess participants’ diets in different study designs. The BRC provides a range of services to assist investigators with nutrition-related research projects.



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 Hoelscher, PhD, RD, LD, CNS – Director and John P McGovern Professor in Health Promotion, UTHealth School of Public Health Austin Campus


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

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


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Kirsten Handler – Communications Specialist for the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living, UTHealth School of Public Health Austin Campus

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Rybecca Kirkpatrick – Program Coordinator of the Center for Energy Balance in Cancer Prevention and Survivorship, 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 

Toward more rigorous and informative nutritional epidemiology: The rational space between dismissal and defense of the status quo

Brown, A. W., Aslibekyan, S., Bier, D., Ferreira da Silva, R., Hoover, A., Klurfeld, D. M., Loken, E., Mayo-Wilson, E., Menachemi, N., Pavela, G., Patrick D, Quinn, Schoeller, D., Carmen, Tekwe, Danny, Valdez, Vorland, C. J., Whigham, L. D., & Allison, D. B. (2021). Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 1–18. Advance online publication.

Immediate biofeedback for energy balance via expired breath

Butz, D. E., Weidmann, D., Brownsword, R., Cook, M. E., Schoeller, D. A., & Whigham, L. D. (2015, August). In 2015 37th Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC) (pp. 8205-8208).

Optical detection of carotenoids in living tissue as a measure of fruit and vegetable intake

Whigham, L. D., & Redelfs, A. H. (2015). Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. Annual International Conference, 2015, 8197–8200.

A mobile phone food record app to digitally capture dietary intake for adolescents in a free-living environment: usability study

Casperson, S. L., Sieling, J., Moon, J., Johnson, L., Roemmich, J. N., & Whigham, L. (2015). JMIR mHealth and uHealth, 3(1), e30.

Skin and plasma carotenoid response to a provided intervention diet high in vegetables and fruit: uptake and depletion kinetics

Jahns, L., Johnson, L. K., Mayne, S. T., Cartmel, B., Picklo, M. J., Sr, Ermakov, I. V., Gellermann, W., & Whigham, L. D. (2014). The American journal of clinical nutrition, 100(3), 930–937.

Breath carbon stable isotope ratios identify changes in energy balance and substrate utilization in humans

Whigham, L. D., Butz, D. E., Johnson, L. K., Schoeller, D. A., Abbott, D. H., Porter, W. P., & Cook, M. E. (2014) International journal of obesity, 38(9), 1248-1250.

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The Digital Physical Activity and Diet (dPAD) Collaborative: A Joint MD Anderson/UTHealth Core

This webinar will introduce the dPAD scope of work, highlight examples of digital tools and methods currently being used for research and describe ways for investigators to contribute and be involved in this initiative.

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Leveraging Existing Technology to Enhance Physical Activity in Inactive Predominantly Black and Latina Women

Research shows that social support is strongly associated with increased engagement in physical activity in women, yet findings are mixed regarding whether interventions that intervene with social networks are more effective than those focused on individuals. This webinar will describe a randomized controlled trial that leverages existing mobile technology and is testing a dyadic health coaching intervention designed to foster support within dyads of inactive, predominantly Black and Latina women.

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Integrating Digital Interventions with the Clinical Enterprise

The uptake of informatics solutions in clinical care (e.g., Electronic Health Record systems) combined with the ubiquity of smartphones and wearable devices has led to an exponential growth of digital health solutions. Digital health is broadly defined as the development of, and use of IT, software, hardware, and other mobile health (mHealth) technologies, and their integration, to improve care, access to care, and health more generally.