To Alice Ammerman, public health is public service

To her many talents, nutrition professor Alice Ammerman can now add hip-hop artist. The Thomas Jefferson Award winner accepted her award at the Sept. 8 Faculty Council meeting by performing a Hamilton-esque rap linking the Declaration of Independence author to recent “challenging times” on campus.

Her hair pulled into its customary no-nonsense bun, Ammerman drew chuckles from the audience as she rapped, concluding with this stanza:

Proud that UNC’s a place

Where social justice is no sham.

We can figure out together

What the heck to do with Sam.

Ammerman, director of the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and the inaugural Mildred Kaufman Distinguished Professor of Nutrition, also gave a shout out to the men in her life: her three sons, her husband and her 102-year-old father, Howard Ammerman, sitting in the front row of the Kerr Hall auditorium.

The citation for Ammerman’s award, read by Elizabeth Mayer-Davis, Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor of Nutrition and Medicine and chair of the nutrition department in the Gillings School of Global Public Health, praised the way Ammerman has consistently combined her public health research with public service.

“Her work is focused on reducing health inequities, particularly as it relates to diet and nutrition, and she’s worked in communities in some of the most vulnerable regions throughout our state,” Mayer-Davis read. “Dr. Ammerman is really the kind of senior faculty member who sets the standard for citizenship and service.”

In addition to heading one of the premier Centers for Disease Control-funded Prevention Research Centers in the country, Ammerman has co-led, with Marcie Cohen Ferris, the Food For All University-wide academic theme into its third year. The food theme has resulted in several campus and community programs and events, establishment of a multi-disciplinary gateway nutrition course for the campus, with plans underway for a food studies minor; and micro-grants to help campus and community entrepreneurs launch their ideas. Ammerman also teaches Public Health Entrepreneurship in the entrepreneurship minor program.

But she is probably best known as a researcher who is never afraid to tackle a new public health problem – and nearly every social ill is also a public health problem, as she sees it. Over the years, her center has taken on cardiovascular health in “the stroke belt” of the South, preschool nutrition and physical activity, self-management of chronic disease as well as empowerment and social support for poor and minority women.

“Part of the secret is being willing to get out of your comfort zone,” she explained. Researchers need to be able to say, “I know nothing about this particular health issue, but I I have experience working with communities and I’m anxious to learn more and work on the problem together.”

One of her newer projects addresses the opioid epidemic in rural areas. “We’re not going to arrest our way out of this as a solution,” she said. Ammerman partnered with a rural North Carolina county to write a grant proposal to fund a county-wide opioid task force and intervention. A glitch in the submission process meant that the proposal didn’t get submitted, but that didn’t stop Ammerman.

“As one of my department chairs once said, ‘Never let a good grant proposal die,’” she said. They are revising the proposal to include covering the cost of sending a local clinical social worker to get special training on innovative addiction therapy and to explore novel approaches like home detox.

Ammerman is always on the lookout for research opportunities that can benefit North Carolina. She recently collaborated with a former student, Stephanie Jilcott-Pitts, now on faculty at Eastern Carolina University. They wrote a proposal to evaluate recent state legislation providing grant funding for convenience stores in food deserts to purchase refrigeration equipment for the sale of healthier food options. After a couple of failed attempts, they are now awaiting word on funding from NIH.

Recognizing an opportunity to expand these efforts, Ammerman and a number of community partners applied for and received funding from the C. Felix Harvey Award to Advance Institutional Priorities at Carolina.

This grant involves creating healthy frozen meals from locally grown meat and produce to be stocked in those new freezers. The meals will be sold locally at higher prices to subsidize the lower cost of the same meals in the convenience stores. The concept is similar to the Toms shoes model, in which for every pair of shoes a customer buys, Toms donates a pair to a needy child.

In her quiet, determined style, Ammerman has pulled many different groups together to work on the project, tentatively called Farm Fresh Meals on the Go. First, she convinced Weaver Street Market to make the meals using her recipes and local ingredients and to sell them at a higher price that would subsidize the meals sold in convenience stores. The meals will be frozen by Seal the Seasons, a Carolina spin-out company that freezes vegetables that North Carolina farmers can’t sell fresh.

The program is just the latest example of how Ammerman looks at a local problem, figures out the public health angle and connects the people and ideas to solve them.

Saving the world, one research grant proposal at a time, is all in a day’s work for Ammerman. As she said in her acceptance of one of the faculty’s highest honors, “I’m really proud to be part of a University that highly values diversity, cares deeply about the people of our state, wrestles with difficult challenges and allows me to follow my passions while still calling it a job.”

This story was featured in the University Gazette on September 12th. 

Click here to see the full presentation, which starts around the 13 minute mark. 

Stephanie Wheeler honored with Hettleman award

Wheeler is a decision scientist whose research focuses on understanding and improving cancer care access, equity, quality, value and outcomes, with a focus on vulnerable populations.

She leads the national, multicenter, Centers for Disease Control-funded Cancer Prevention and Control Research Network, which focuses on dissemination and implementation of evidence-based cancer-focused interventions. She also co-directs the National Cancer Institute-funded Cancer Care Quality Training Program and the NCI-funded Geographic Management of Cancer Health Disparities Program.

Her work has resulted in 85 peer-reviewed publications, more than 100 public presentations at national conferences, symposia and other venues, and more than $10 million in grant funding.

“Stephanie’s strong passion for conducting policy-relevant public health research to reduce disparities among patients with cancer is palpable,” said Morris Weinberger, chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management. “Her research has spanned cancer care from screening to treatment and survivorship.”

Wheeler earned a doctorate at the Gillings School of Global Public Health before joining the health policy management faculty in 2010. Earlier this year, Wheeler received the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health Early Career Public Health Research Award.

Jo Anne L. Earp, research professor in the Department of Health Behavior, said Wheeler is becoming a nationally known “behavioral science interventionist” dedicated to closing racial divides in cancer treatment. “On top of her scholarly brilliance, she has superior management skills, budgetary savvy and a deep familiarity with working with large-scale secondary sources of data,” Earp said.

This piece was featured in the University Gazette on September 26th. 

UNC-Chapel Hill’s 2016 Harvey Award funds projects focused on hunger and educational success for children in foster care

(Chapel Hill, N.C.— April 20, 2017) – Faculty members from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and schools of medicine, education and social work will tackle the issues of local hunger and academic success for North Carolina foster children with funding provided by the 2016 C. Felix Harvey Award to Advance Institutional Priorities.

The Harvey Award reflects a core Carolina value—serving the public good—by recognizing exemplary faculty scholarship that addresses real-world challenges and reflects the University’s commitment to entrepreneurship and innovation.

Dr. Alice Ammerman, director of the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and professor of nutrition, Gillings School of Global Public Health and School of Medicine, will lead a coalition of community partners to increase access to healthy food for low-income consumers.

“This venture provides access to healthy food for low-income community members while also providing economic opportunities for local farmers and retailers,” said Ammerman. “The project will develop a sales model with dual price points—full price or slightly higher at an upscale food store, and significantly reduced prices at four small community grocery stores.”

The group will use local food production facilities and seasonally available local food to create healthy frozen meals that will be offered for sale at local markets. While inspired by the Mediterranean diet, the recipes will be adapted for the southern palate, featuring southern vegetables and locally produced meats. Local partners include Weaver Street Market, Carolina student start-up Seal the Seasons and Farmer Foodshare among others.

This year, through the generosity of the McNairy Foundation and the C. Felix Harvey Award endowment, a second award will fund a team developing a program to meet the academic needs of children in foster care: Dr. Molly Berkoff, associate professor of pediatrics and medical director of the Child Medical Evaluation Program and Child Protection Team, School of Medicine; Dr. Robert Martinez Jr., assistant professor, School of Education; and Laura Phipps, clinical assistant professor at the Family and Children’s Resource Program, Jordan Institute for Families at the School of Social Work.

Together, they will develop an online training toolkit to guide child welfare social workers as they assist foster care children and advocate for their academic needs. Some studies show that less than 60 percent of students in foster care finish high school, and among those who do, only 3 percent pursue postsecondary education. Though North Carolina currently has a strong child welfare system, there are no training tools focused on the specific academic needs of foster children. This project will assist with development of resources for both child welfare and the North Carolina school system to use in local districts.

“I’m very passionate about this work,” said Berkoff. “Since I arrived at Carolina in 2003, I’ve worked with children who have been victims of abuse and neglect, focusing on their medical needs. Many of them are in foster care and over time I realized that we could work better with our partners in the school system and the child welfare system to meet their educational needs.”

The late C. Felix Harvey was chairman of Harvey Enterprises & Affiliates and founder of the Little Bank Inc., both in Kinston, North Carolina. A 1943 Carolina graduate, he joined his family in 2007 to endow the award with a $2 million commitment. Five generations of Harveys have earned UNC-Chapel Hill degrees.

No Kid Hungry Graduate Research Assistant, Jessica Soldavini, receives Community Engagement Fellowship


Jessica Soldavini

Jessica Soldavini, a Graduate Research Assistant for No Kid Hungry, recently received a Community Engagement Fellowship for her Food for the Summer project.

The Community Engagement Fellowship program awards a maximum of seven fellowships of up to $2,000 each year to develop and implement engagement or engaged scholarship projects that employ innovative, sustainable approaches to complex social needs and have an academic connection. Returning, full-time graduate students at UNC-Chapel Hill are eligible to apply. Previous fellows are eligible to apply for an additional year of funding. Fellows work in collaboration with community partners and faculty mentors who are familiar with their topics or geographic areas, while fellows are responsible for the major planning and implementation of their projects. The fellowships run from March-November with project implementation occurring during the summer.

Soldavini’s Food for the Summer project provides free meals and enrichment activities for children up to 18 years old who live in low-income areas in Chapel Hill and Carrboro during the summer when school is out. Last summer, the program used an innovative model to serve more than 48,000 meals. This project will evaluate of the Food for the Summer program in partnership with an evaluation subcommittee. Teen ambassadors from the neighborhoods served by Food for the Summer will also be engaged in the project. Evaluation methods include analyzing Summer Food Service program data; developing tracking systems for activities; and conducting surveys, interviews and/or focus groups with program participants and other key stakeholders. Evaluation results will be used to identify program outcomes and successes, determine which program components are most successful and identify areas of improvement. Results will also help secure future funding and inform a sustainability. Evaluation results will be shared with other communities to help inform Summer Nutrition Program efforts across the state and country.

For more information on the Community Engagement Fellowship, as well as other recipients of the award, click here.

Public Health Experts Celebrate 30 Years of CDC’s Prevention Research Solutions for Communities with Health Disparities


UNC HPDP February 16, 2017 – It has been 30 years since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) envisioned the creation of a bridge between academic public health research and public health practice. The result is the Prevention Research Centers (PRC) Program, currently a network of 26 academic institutions across the U.S. dedicated to moving new discoveries into the communities that need them. Marking this milestone, key members of the PRC Network community share their insights and commentaries to provide an insiders’ perspective on the past, present, and future of the PRC Program in a special supplement to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“The 30th anniversary of the founding of the PRC Network is an appropriate time to reflect on our progress as well as look to the future. Applied prevention research with a focus on understanding health disparities and promoting health equity has never been more important than now. The PRC Network has made great strides in developing, testing, and disseminating programs and policies that have had broad and sustained impact,” commented supplement Guest Editor Dr. Mehran S. Massoudi, former PRC Director and currently the Regional Health Administrator, Region VI, Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

PRC Program leaders provide a historical look, current assessment, and perspective for the future of the program. The contributions represent continuing efforts to promote health by conducting cutting-edge research and translating research to practice in partnership with communities.

Dr. James S. Marks, former CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP) Director, and Dr. Jeffrey P. Koplan, former NCCDPHP and CDC Director, review the early years of the PRCs and offer perspectives into the future. They examine the early struggles that led to missed opportunities and how the original goal of PRCs, namely, practical research in challenged communities as a core part of the academic enterprise of scholarship, service, and training, has been accomplished. They observed that “the bridge the PRCs have helped to build between public health academia and practice is broad, heavily traveled, and has brought longer, healthier, more fulfilling lives to all.”

Four former PRC directors look back on some unique challenges faced by the PRC Program and how they ultimately successfully addressed them. Eduardo J. Simoes, MD, MSc, MPH, Director from 2002 until 2011, noted, “Along the way and every day, this partnership of government, academia, and community traveled a bumpy road with improved pavement provided by dedicated federal public health officials motivated by knowledge and a strong sense of duty.”

Leaders from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and National Association of County and City Health Officials provide a frame from the practice-based perspective on how the PRC Program serves as a resource to state and local public health departments as they fulfill their public health mission.

Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health and American College of Preventive Medicine representatives provide a perspective of the PRC Program as an integral portfolio of the Schools of Public Health and Medicine to advance population health. The PRCs are pushing academic research to pay more attention to on-the-ground prevention efforts, state and local health departments that benefit from closer ties to the research institutions, and the public, which gains an evidence-based platform for health promotion and disease prevention.

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Caption: 30 years of building healthier communities. An overview of the Prevention Research Centers Program and its contributions to public health and education. Credit: Prevention Research Centers Program, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The supplement documents the story of how PRC Programs have impacted the health of African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Native Americans, deaf populations, adolescents, older adults, and urban and rural under-resourced populations. Other articles deal with measuring the impact of a national media intervention implemented across the PRC Network, evaluating healthy food incentive programs, assessing fall risk prevention programs, and promoting teen contraception through parental intervention.

Twenty-one peer-reviewed original research articles from the PRC academic and community partners show the depth and scope of their work. These articles cover a wide range of important topics including dissemination and implementation of long-standing evidence-based programs, including formation of thematic research networks in physical activity, healthy aging, cancer prevention and control, and epilepsy management; health surveillance of the deaf community; research to practice in state and local public health settings; collaboration with community partners; use of community health workers or “promotoras;” and training of the public health workforce.

Reaching out to the public health community, Dr. Massoudi noted, “In looking to the future, we must build on the work of the past 30 years, incorporating new knowledge and technology while remaining committed to our mission of working as an interdependent network of community, academic, and public health partners to conduct prevention research and promote the wide use of practices proven to promote good health.”








Media contact:

Sonya Sutton

1700 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd #7426, Chapel Hill, NC 27514


Guest Editors:

Alice S. Ammerman, DrPH, Prevention Research Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC

Ross C. Brownson, PhD, Prevention Research Center in St. Louis, Brown School, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO

Jeffrey R. Harris, MD, MPH, MBA, Prevention Research Center, University of Washington School of Public Health, Seattle, WA

Mehran S. Massoudi, PhD, MPH, Regional Health Administrator, Region VI, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, DHHS, Dallas, TX; formerly the Director of the Prevention Research Centers Program, CDC, Atlanta GA


This supplement to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, volume 52, issue 3 (March 2017), published by Elsevier, is openly available at Please visit the site to view the table of contents and access full text of the contributions.


Full text of these articles is also available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Jillian B. Morgan at +1 734-936-1590 or Journalists wishing to interview the authors should contact Dr. Mehran S. Massoudi, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, US Department of Health and Human Services, at +1 214-767-8433, +1 202-853-4235 (mobile) or


This publication was made possible through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Association for Prevention Teaching and Research (APTR) Cooperative Agreement No. 1 U36 OE000005. The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Department of Health and Human Services, CDC, or the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, or APTR.


About the American Journal of Preventive Medicine

The American Journal of Preventive Medicine ( is the official journal of The American College of Preventive Medicine ( and the Association for Prevention Teaching and Research ( It publishes articles in the areas of prevention research, teaching, practice and policy. Original research is published on interventions aimed at the prevention of chronic and acute disease and the promotion of individual and community health. The journal features papers that address the primary and secondary prevention of important clinical, behavioral and public health issues such as injury and violence, infectious disease, women’s health, smoking, sedentary behaviors and physical activity, nutrition, diabetes, obesity, and alcohol and drug abuse. Papers also address educational initiatives aimed at improving the ability of health professionals to provide effective clinical prevention and public health services. The journal also publishes official policy statements from the two co-sponsoring organizations, health services research pertinent to prevention and public health, review articles, media reviews, and editorials.


The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, with an Impact Factor of 4.465, is ranked 14th in Public, Environmental, and Occupational Health titles and 16th in General & Internal Medicine titles for total number of citations according to the 2015 Journal Citation Reports® published by Thomson Reuters, 2016.


About Elsevier

Elsevier ( is a world-leading provider of information solutions that enhance the performance of science, health, and technology professionals, empowering them to make better decisions, deliver better care, and sometimes make groundbreaking discoveries that advance the boundaries of knowledge and human progress. Elsevier provides web-based, digital solutions – among them ScienceDirect (, Scopus (, Elsevier Research Intelligence (, and ClinicalKey ( – and publishes over 2,500 journals, including The Lancet ( and Cell (, and more than 35,000 book titles, including a number of iconic reference works. Elsevier is part of RELX Group (, a world-leading provider of information and analytics for professional and business customers across industries.


About Prevention Research Centers (PRC)

PRC is a network of 26 academic research centers in 24 states that study how people and their communities can avoid or counter the risks for chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, obesity and cancer. These centers are located at either a school of public health or a medical school that has a preventive medicine residency program. As leaders in translating research results into policy and public health practice, the centers work with communities to develop, evaluate, and implement major community changes that can prevent and control chronic diseases. They identify gaps in research and develop innovative approaches to improving public health that can be shared broadly with public health partners.


HPDP Research Fellow honored by Obesity Society

“The impact of their work will be felt for many years to come.”

Dianne Stanton Ward, EdD, a fellow at the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (HPDP), was recently awarded the the 2016 Oded Bar-Or Award at ward_dianne_2014the annual meeting of The Obesity Society, called “Obesity Week.” This award recognizes an individual selected by the Pediatric Obesity Section for contributions to pediatric obesity research and advances in the scientific understanding of etiology, prevention and treatment of obesity.  Ward was recognized alongside Deborah Tate, PhD, a professor of nutrition and of health behavior at UNC that won the 2016 Pioneer Award.

Ward has worked as a principal investigator for the Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-Assessment (NAP SACC) program, a research program based at HPDP. NAP SACC promotes healthy eating and physical activity in young children in child care and preschool settings. Ward is also the head of HPDP’s Children’s Healthy Weight Research Group, which leads multiple research projects dedicated to improving the health of young children.

Elizabeth Mayer-Davis, PhD, Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor of nutrition and medicine at UNC, was not short in her praise of these two women. “Both of them have collaborated extensively here at UNC, and their work has contributed substantially to the field,” Mayer-Davis said. “It is important also to recognize that both have been very much engaged in training students and fellows. The impact of their work will be felt for many years to come.”

To learn more about this topic, click here:

HPDP Research Fellow gives keynote address at New Mexico Conference on Aging


On August 24th, Ellen Schneider, a Research Fellow at the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, gave a keynote address for the 38th annual meeting of the New Mexico Conference on Aging. The Conference has been organized since 1978 as a way for adults, caregivers and professionals to learn more about aging while encouraging a fun environment.

Schneider is known for her work with the National Falls Free Initiative, as well as facilitating the National Falls Prevention Awareness and Advocacy Committee. She also co-founded the North Carolina Falls Prevention Coalition, which worked to create the North Carolina Falls Prevention Awareness Week. This week, which will be from September 19th to 24th this year, was proclaimed into observance by Governor Pat McCrory in 2015.

“As part of my role with the National Council on Aging’s National Falls Prevention Resource Center, I am working to spread the word across the country about how to reduce falls risks and help people live as safely and independently for as long as possible.”

Schneider’s keynote topic was “Successful Strategies to Reduce Older Adult Fall Risks.” She spoke on the U.S. Administration for Community Living, which has recently awarded grants to organizations focused on evidence-based programs for older adults and adults with disabilities. She also discussed the growing magnitude and impact of older adults falls; proven interventions to prevent falls; and tools for screening, assessing and referring older adults to appropriate resources.

The session not only stressed national efforts to address this public health issue, but also touched on successful fall prevention strategies being implemented by some afore-mentioned organizations. Approximately 2,000 people attended the presentation.

“Falls are the leading cause of injuries and injury deaths for people 65 and older,” Schneider said in her speech. “The good news is that most falls are preventable by taking simple steps such as exercising to increase strength and balance, reviewing medications with a health care provider, maximizing vision and hearing, and addressing potential falls hazard at home.”

The statistics on fall-related injuries are numerous and surprising. In 2011, falling was the confirmed cause of 883 deaths and roughly 25,000 hospitalizations, in just the state of North Carolina. In the entire United States, around 2.5 million older adults are treated in emergency departments due to fall injuries; and of these 2.5 million, over 700,000 are hospitalized. One of the most thought-provoking statistics can be found in a study done by the CDC, which researched into the unintentional fall death rates per 100,000 people, over age 65, in the United states from 2004-2013. This report found that the death rate increased by almost 20 percent, over this nine-year span.

For more information on the North Carolina Falls Prevention Coalition, go to:

You can also find more information on Ellen Schneider at: