Lifestyle Innovations

Obesity and type 2 diabetes are at an all-time high among both children and adults in the United States today. These conditions have immediate and long-term effects on individual health and wellness. Studies have shown that overweight parents are more likely to have overweight children, leading to a cycle of obesity. Many low-income families are especially vulnerable to this cycle due to a number of factors and are often the most challenging to reach for education and intervention. Research shows that an intergenerational approach—one that targets multiple generations in a household, including both parents and children—is most likely to be successful and lead to sustainable healthy lifestyle change.

The Lifestyle Innovations workgroup is currently testing research on breaking this cycle of intergenerational obesity and diabetes risk.

Our research objectives are to:

  • Test new methods for implementing evidence-based lifestyle interventions to reach high needs individuals and families
  • Design rapid response research to address lifestyle questions regarding real-world implementation and practice
Debra Haire-Joshu, PhD, MS, MSEd
Faculty Director, Envolve Center for Health Behavior Change

Debra Haire-Joshu, PhD, is faculty director for the Lifestyle Innovations core of the Envolve Center for Health Behavior Change. An internationally renowned scholar of health behavior, Debra develops population-wide interventions to reduce obesity and prevent diabetes, particularly among underserved women and children. She is the Joyce Wood Professor at the Brow​n School and holds a joint appointment in the Washington University School of Medicine. Debra directs both the Center for Obesity Prevention and Policy Research, which aims to discover and integrate new science into policies designed to prevent obesity, and the Washington University Center for Diabetes Translation Research, which works to eliminate the root causes of obesity and disparities in Type 2 diabetes within diverse populations. Debra served as a Health Policy Fellow for then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama and a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellow with the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Read more.​ 

Rachel Tabak, PhD
Lead Faculty, Envolve Center for Health Behavior Change

​Rachel Tabak is a lead faculty in the Envolve Center’s Lifestyle Innovations workgroup. Her research interests include obesity prevention, nutrition strategies, community-based physical activity, and dissemination and implementation. She also examines how key stakeholders, including researchers, advocates, and policymakers, affect how research evidence is transformed into policy.Her previous research interests include measurement and evaluation of home environment influences on children's diet as well as interventions to modify this environment. She received her PhD in nutrition intervention and policy with a minor in epidemiology from the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.


The Studies

Member Survey with a Pediatric Obesity Program

Why do members enroll or drop out of a pediatric obesity management program?

Researchers recently completed telephone interviews with health plan members in four states to learn why they enrolled and stayed in or dropped out of a pediatric obesity management program. Results from this study will help researchers better understand members’ expectations and unmet needs and discover the most effective and efficient ways to improve engagement and retention. This study is a qualitative survey and will provide foundational results to direct and inform future research.

Peer Coaching with a Pediatric Obesity Program

Can the support of peers as health coaches improve outcomes in a lifestyle change intervention for families with obese children?

Researchers are assessing whether the use of peer coaching is acceptable, feasible, and sustainable within Envolve’s operations and if peer coaching helps to better meet the needs of health plan members. This study will inform future trials and build evidence about the effectiveness of using peer coaching in efforts to curb childhood obesity and promote improved health outcomes.