Core Research

The Tulane Prevention Research Center (PRC) focuses on one Core Research project each 5-year funding cycle. For the 2014-2019 cycle, the overall goal for the Movin’ for LIFE (Lasting Improvements for Fitness and Energy) program is to develop a model of healthy living for residents of the Ninth Ward community, such as eating healthy and being more physically active, and promote existing resources and activities. All program activities will be carried out in the Upper and Lower Ninth Ward for all residents and then shared with other New Orleans neighborhoods.

Neighborhood Food Environment in New Orleans, 2009-2014


Past Project:

The Tulane Prevention Research Center’s core research project (2009-2014 grant cycle) examined the food environment in New Orleans, seeking to document changes since Hurricane Katrina, how these changes affect access to healthy food, and the impacts of these changes on food consumption behavior. The core research was community-based and relied on specific interventions and natural experiments to study the changing food landscape in New Orleans and its impacts on residents.

Click here for the paper (2011) on the effects of Hurricane Katrina on food access disparities in New Orleans in the American Journal of Public Health.
Click here for the paper (2012) on neighborhood food environments and obesity in southeast Louisiana in the journal Health & Place.

Component Projects:

Phone Survey
This project examines the effects of new food stores in New Orleans. New food stores are expected because of the recently approved Fresh Food Retailer Incentive program, which allocates approximately $14 million in forgivable and low-interest loans for expanding fresh food offerings in existing stores or for installing new grocery stores in underserved areas. In the summer of 2011, household surveys were administered via telephone to collect information on shopping habits, food preferences, food consumption, and demographic characteristics. That data is currently being analyzed and prepared for reporting. A follow-up round of telephone surveys is currently being conducted (summer 2013) in order to capture consumption changes related to the new or expanded food stores.

Click here for the presentation abstract on the Phone Survey at the 2012 American Public Health Association Annual Meeting.
Click here for the presentation abstract on the Phone Survey at the 2014 American Public Health Association Annual Meeting.
Click here for the article (e-published January 2015) on the Phone Survey in Preventive Medicine Reports.

Principal Investigator: Jeanette Gustat, PhD, MPH

Neighborhood Study (Makin’ Groceries)
In addition to the city-wide phone survey, a supplementary project is currently being implemented. This project aims to have a more focused area of interest, revolving around individual new store openings and their surrounding neighborhoods. Door-to-door surveys were conducted in fall 2012 and spring 2013 in specific neighborhoods that will have changes in food access related to the New Orleans Fresh Food Retailer Initiative as well as in neighborhoods that have not had any food access changes. Results will be compared to analyze differences in healthy eating attitudes and practices as a result of new or expanded food store openings in a neighborhood. Additionally, intercept interviews may be conducted on-site as customers are entering or exiting the premises after the new store has opened. To read more about the project, click here.

Click here for the presentation abstract on Makin’ Groceries at the 2014 American Public Health Association Annual Meeting.
Click here for the presentation abstract on Makin’ Groceries and the Phone Survey at the 2013 American Public Health Association Annual Meeting.

Principal Investigator: Jeanette Gustat, PhD, MPH

Childhood Obesity Assessment
The third project of our core research studies the relationship between physical and social environments and obesity-related behaviors in children. We have collected a baseline dataset on elementary schoolchildren in central city New Orleans. Data include observations on children’s weight and height, parental-reported physical activity and dietary behaviors of the children, as well as household-level data including food consumption, demographic characteristics, and socio-economic conditions. GIS data will allow matching of households with neighborhood characteristics on the food and physical activity environments. In observing the evolution of weight status and obesity-related behaviors among these children, we will be examining the role of specific individual, household, and neighborhood-level factors. Understanding the relative importance of these factors can inform subsequent intervention efforts in New Orleans and in other urban areas of the country.

Analyses are being conducted now with the data collected in January 2010. Based on the information obtained from these data, we conducted another assessment in 2012-2013 among the same participants to evaluate any changes in influence on childhood obesity. We are currently recruiting participants for the follow-up round of data collection to be conducted starting in 2012.

Investigator: Kat Theall, PhD, MPH

Food Store Observations / WIC Study
Our fourth project is focused on assessing the impact of WIC Program policy changes on the food store environment in New Orleans. WIC is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. In 2009, this USDA food assistance program instituted historic changes to participants’ food package benefits by increasing whole grains, low-fat milks, and fruits and vegetables. We collected in-store information from many food stores across the city before and after the 2009 change was implemented.

We analyzed data to see how the change in policy affected the retail food store environment in New Orleans. We completed an additional round of in-store surveys providing a second round of follow-up data collection. We have also adapted the assessment instrument to allow this round of data collection to serve as a baseline measure of food store access and access to different categories of food items (i.e. fresh fruits and vegetables) before any changes in the food environment go into affect as a result of the Fresh Food Retailer Initiative (FFRI).

Click here for the paper (2014) on the WIC study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.
Click here for the paper (2014) on the WIC Study in the journal Public Health Nutrition.
Click here for the paper (2012) on the WIC study in the journal Public Health Nutrition.

Investigator: Diego Rose, PhD, MPH

Other Related Projects


Movin' for LIFE, 2014-2019

The overall goal of the Movin’ for LIFE (Lasting Improvements for Fitness and Energy) project is to improve the health of residents by focusing on increasing health-related behaviors, such as healthy eating and being more physically active. Residents of the Upper and Lower Ninth Ward and New Orleans East will participate in the program. A variety of strategies will be used to promote active and healthy lifestyles. Lessons learned will be used to create a…

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Partnership for Active Community Environment (PACE), 2004-2009

Past Project: The Partnership for an Active Community Environment (PACE) was led by a partnership of researchers from the Tulane PRC, residents from neighborhoods, and representatives from local community organizations. PACE began in 2004 to impact physical activity levels using a community-based participatory approach to facilitate environmental change in a low-income, New Orleans neighborhood. In 2006, PACE looked at three demographically similar areas in New Orleans to assess physical activity levels at baseline using household…

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Featured Publications


Nutrition and Food Availability


Eating as an automatic behavior




Formative research in school and community-based health programs and studies: "state of the art" and the TAAG approach

all scientific publications


Community Briefs


Schoolyard Project




Healthy Choice Brochure

all prc publications