Dawnavan S. Davis

In Funded Scholars
Dawnavan S. Davis
Dawnavan S. Davis

Dawnavan S.



Director of Health Promotions
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City

Professional Bio

Research Associate, Johns Hopkins Children’s Center-Department of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition (1996-1997).

Research Study Director, University of Maryland’s Hospital, Department of Pediatric Endocrinology (1997-2000).

Research/Teaching Assistant, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences-Department of Medical and Clinical Psychology (2000-2005).

Children’s National Medical Hospital-Department of Family and Community Health (2002-2005).

Postdoctoral Fellow, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (2005-2007).

Research Associate Assistant Professor and Director of CBPR, University of Chicago, Department of Medicine, Section of General Internal Medicine (2008-present).

Project Description

Studies have failed to explore the impact of policy (i.e., Activate America) on organizational (e.g., knowledge and/or integration of the Activate America initiative to daily operations of the South Chicago YMCA sites); environmental (e.g., modification of the content of the snacks provided at after-school programs; and individual factors (e.g., dietary practices of young, at-risk AA children). Therefore, the purposes of the proposed study are to: 1) examine the food environment of at risk children (i.e., grades K-5) attending five South Side Chicago YMCA after-school programs; 2) identify the facilitators and barriers of implementation of the YMCA Activate America initiative that offer healthy, after-school snacks; and 3) understand the dietary knowledge and behaviors of at-risk children attending Chicago YMCA after-school programs. Fifteen YMCA staff and 75 child/parent dyads (15 dyads/site) currently attending across the five South Side Chicago YMCA after-school programs will participate in the proposed study. Naturalistic observations and key informant interviews will be conducted to explore the YMCA after-school program food environment and factors impacting local YMCA after-school program adoption of the Activate America Initiative, respectively. Focus groups and surveys will be used to examine dietary knowledge and behaviors among at-risk children.

My New Connections Experience

My decision to apply to the New Connection Program was threefold. First, New Connections offered the opportunity to provide initial funding for my program to develop research in childhood obesity. Second, RWJF and the New Connections program would allow me to interact with both junior and senior researchers in the field. Third, I saw this program as an opportunity to positively contribute to the important work aimed to eliminate childhood obesity at the local and national level.

New Connections has provided an invaluable opportunity to broaden my research portfolio in the area of childhood obesity; and to extend my professional network of childhood obesity researchers, policy-makers, community organizations and clinicians.

Research Interests

I received my B.A. from Loyola College of Maryland in Psychology, an M.S. in Community Health Education from Towson University and in 2005, a Ph.D. in Medical Psychology from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. I am a medical psychologist and obesity researcher whose research focuses on the development, implementation and evaluation of community-based childhood obesity- and diabetes-prevention behavioral interventions, and the employment of a community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach. Currently, as research assistant professor and director of the CBPR Program in the Section of General Internal Medicine at the University of Chicago, I have three primary research interest areas. The first involves the examination of the organizational- and individual-level factors influencing academic-community research partnership development, specifically with faith-based organizations. The second explores the intersection of faith and health among African Americans, and how obesity and diabetes interventions can be integrated into the faith organizational educational structure in order to promote social and community change. The third entails the development and evaluation of community-based obesity and diabetes interventions for African-American children and families using a CBPR process. Specifically, my research entails working with faith organizations and YMCAs to promote healthy eating and physical activity to prevent childhood obesity and its associated diabetes risk among African-American youth and families. Presently, I serve as the lead investigator on studies that aim to develop research collaborations with African-American faith organizations to assist health ministries with conducting and evaluating faith-based diabetes-related health programs and interventions, and that examine the after-school food environment of YMCAs located in underserved African-American communities on Chicago’s South Side.

The Details
  • New Connections Status: Junior Investigator
  • Award Year: 2008,¬†Healthy Eating Research
  • RWJF Team/Portfolio: Childhood Obesity
  • Project Name:¬†Y Not Healthy Snacks?: Towards a Better Understanding of the YMCA After-School Food Environment on Chicago’s South Side

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