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Global Obesity Prevention Center

Our Projects

The Global Obesity Prevention Center (GOPC) is home to multiple systems-oriented projects aimed to combat both communicable and non-communicable diseases (NCDs). These projects span throughout the US and across the globe.


Virtual Population Obesity Prevention (VPOP) Labs

Project Lead: Bruce Y. Lee, MD, MBA


vpopThe Virtual Population Obesity Prevention (VPOP) Labs use computational simulation modeling to understand the complex systems of obesity. The VPOP model is the first obesity-related agent-based model to include detailed representations of multiple levels from individual behavior, to social context to physical environment.

Additional Information:
VPOP Overview Sheet

B’More Healthy Communities for Kids (BHCK)

Project Lead: Joel Gittelsohn, PhD


BHCK MainB’More Healthy Communities for Kids (BHCK) is an intervention trial operating at multiple levels of the Baltimore City food system. The study aims to increase affordability, availability and consumption of healthy foods within low-income and predominantly African-American neighborhoods. 

Additional Information: 
Overview Sheet                                     Cooking Classes
Policy Working Group                           Community Forum   
                                                          Youth Leader Program                                      

Micro-Macro Obesity Dynamics (MMOD)

Project Lead: Saeideh Fallah-Fini


MMODThis project has developed a system dynamics model that quantifies the energy imbalance gap responsible for the US adult obesity epidemic among gender and racial subpopulations.

Additional Information:
Using Systems Science in Obesity Research Publication
Dr. Fallah-Fini's Systems Approach to Obesity


Dynamics of Childhood Obesity in Pennsylvania from Community to Epigenetics

Project Lead: Thomas A. Glass, PhD
Co-Lead: Brian S. Schwartz, MD, MS


p1This study uses existing data and ongoing research to understand the dynamics of childhood obesity in a large population of children living in 1,300 Pennsylvania communities that vary in their land use, food, physical activity, and social environments. 

Additional Information:
Pennsylvania Project Overview Sheet
                                                            Using a Comprehensive Electronic Health Record

A Highly Extensible Resource for Modeling Agricultural and Food Supply Chains (HERMES)

Project Lead: Bruce Y. Lee, MD, MBA
Co-Lead: Shawn T. Brown, PhD


hermes logoThe HERMES model will provide virtual representations from all aspects of the agricultural and food supply chains in order to evaluate operations and performance, identify strengths, weaknesses, and potential solutions, determine the impact of new technologies, designs, processes, and policy-changes, and help guide investments and strategies. 


Multilevel Systems-oriented Childhood Obesity Study In China

Project Lead: Youfa Wang, MD, MS, PhD
Co-Lead: Huijun Wang, MD, PhD


ChinaChina offers a unique opportunity to study the causes of obesity given the significant social, environmental and lifestyle shifts and the rapid increase in obesity and many lifestyle related chronic diseases that are occurring in that country. The project uses longitudinal and national data collected in China to evaluate the interplay, impact and nonlinear relationships of the built, social, economic and environmental and policy factors related to childhood obesity. 




spaces logoSPACES MERL is a consortium created by the US Global Development Lab at USAID. SPACES MERL consists of four key players: the Global Obesity Prevention Center (GOPC) at Johns Hopkins, LINC, Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI) and ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) who collaborate with USAID to help transform decision-making and interventions in development.

Brain and Appetite Research Study

Principal Investigator: Susan Carnell, PhD


teenagers at lunch This study aims to investigate the biological basis of appetite and body weight in youth, using a mix of eating behavior tests, computer tasks, questionnaires and brain imaging methods. 


St. Vincent Greenway Evaluation

The role of local bike policies and greenways in preventing childhood obesity

Principal Investigator: Elizabeth A. Dodson, PhD, MPH


st vincentt greenwayA natural experiment study that evaluates the effects of the environmental change (implementation of the St. Vincent Greenway extension) on childhood and family health behaviors before and after the greenway is completed.


Impacts of A Walkable Community on Residents' Physical Activities

Principal Investigator: Xuemei Zhu, PhD


Impacts of walkable main pageThis project examines the impact of a rare natural experiment— moving into a new, activity friendly community (Mueller, Austin, TX)—on increasing children’s physical activity. 


Systems-oriented Approach to Evaluating Local Sugar-sweetened Beverage Tax Ordinances

Principal Investigator: Kristine Madsen, MD, MPH


san fran bay areaProposed by researchers at University of California (UC) Berkeley School of Public Health, this project examines the impact of a sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) excise tax on media, retail environments and child and adult SSB consumption in Berkeley, San Francisco and Oakland (a comparison city). 


A Systems-oriented Analysis of Two Multilevel, Multisector Childhood Obesity Prevention and Control Projects

Principal Investigator: Emmeline Chuang, PhD


Kids eatingThis project addresses the knowledge gap regarding potential sources and strategies for overcoming policy resistance regarding systems-oriented approaches to prevent and control obesity. 


Evaluating Changes in Food Access as a Result of the Minneapolis Staple Food Ordinance

Principal Investigator: Melissa Laska, PhD, RD


store minn logoThis study aims to implement new policy initiatives that help create mechanisms to broaden programmatic reach and enhance sustainability of staple food ordinance in Minneapolis. 

Additional Information:
Staple Foods Ordinance is Approved!

Health Support Networks for Preventing Childhood Obesity in Home Visitation Programs

Principal Investigator: Kayla de la Haye, PhD


social media kaylaResearchers at the University of Southern California will use a systems perspective to assess the ways in which participants’ health support networks change in response to two different wellness initiatives, COPE and Wellness Challenge.


Understanding Organizational Network Capacity in the Context of Nutrition Incentive Programs

Principal Investigator: Ligia Paina, PhD


wwThis study aims to explore how state level nutrition incentive networks are structured and how network capacity develops in two states where Wholesome Wave’s (WW) Double Value Coupon Program (DVCP) is being implemented and scaled-up – New Hampshire and Vermont.  


Using Systems Thinking for Obesity Prevention and Policy Development

Principal Investigator: Christine Siokou, PhD


systems thinkingThis intervention consists of a new, preventative health workforce of 150 people that implement a systems approach to obesity prevention practices and policy development at the local level in Australia. 


Addressing Obesity through a Novel Food Pantry Intervention: Outcome Evaluation

Principal Investigator: Katie Martin, PhD


fp logoThis project will provide a systemic change to the status quo of how we address hunger in the U.S., and how to address food insecurity and obesity simultaneously.  


Assessing the Impact of Zoning Policies on Fast-food Restaurants Around Schools in England

Principal Investigator: Philippe Giabbanelli, PhD


england fast foodThis project aims to address the impact of fast-food restaurants around schools in England by using an agent-based model. Specifically, the overarching aim for this project is to use a quantitative systems approach to understand how combined planning measures around schools affect the English food landscape across different levels of deprivation. 


Introduction of Physical Activity Classes in Girls' Private Schools in Saudi Arabia: Evaluation of the New Policy

Principal Investigator: Hazzaa M. Al-Hazzaa, PhD, FACSM


saudi pilotFor the first time, physical activity and fitness classes will be allowed for girls in private schools in Saudi Arabia.  Using a systems science framework, this study aims to shed light on the increase off the prevalence of childhood obesity in Middle East and other regions.


Development of a Life Course Obesity Prevention Initiative in the Bahamas

Project Co-Leads: Joel Gittelsohn, PhD, MSc & Lawrence J. Cheskin, MD, FACP, FTOS


BahamasRates of obesity, type 2 diabetes and other preventable chronic diseases continue to rise in the Bahamas. According to recent reports, 64% of women and 50% of men are estimated to be overweight or obese in the Bahamas and the Caribbean region. The GOPC, Bahamas Ministry of Social Services and Community Development (MOSSCD) and Health (MOH) are working together to develop a sustainable, national obesity prevention strategy. 

Impact of Calorie Changes in Chain Restaurants on Obesity: A Systems Dynamics Approach

Project Lead: Saeideh Fallah-Fini, PhD


menuStrong evidence shows that exposure to different neighborhood-level environmental characteristics are associated with different health outcomes such as obesity. Within the food environment, restaurants are a particularly important area of focus for public health research, given the concern over the hypothesized contribution of increased restaurant eating and over-consumption of calories to the obesity epidemic. This concern prompted policy action in the form of menu labeling so that consumers could be more aware of the calories associated with each menu option.

Regional Healthcare Ecosystem Analyst (RHEA)

Project Lead: Bruce Y. Lee, MD, MBA


RHEA Healthcare systems are complex ecosystems that include multiple acute and long-term care facilities and the communities they serve. These complex ecosystems contain a constant flow of patients and are increasingly interconnected via transfers, admissions and discharges. RHEA is a computational simulation model aimed to optimize healthcare ecosystems all with the safety of a computer. RHEA’s software platform allows users to model one or more healthcare facilities in order to produce strong and accurate forecasts to any changes in its ecosystem. 

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