Olivia Affuso, PhD

In Funded Scholars
Olivia Affuso, PhD
Olivia Affuso, PhD




Associate Professor
University of Alabama at Birmingham

Professional Bio

Dr. Olivia Affuso is an AssociateProfessor in the UAB Department of Epidemiology and an Associate Scientist in the Nutrition Obesity Research Center and the Minority Health and Research Center. Her current research interests include translational epidemiology for the prevention and treatment of obesity and chronic disease. Current research projects focus on physical activity and nutrition, and design of obesity randomized controlled trials. She has experience with large multi-center pediatric obesity intervention trials and clinical management of obesity in children and adults.

She obtained a Ph.D. in Nutrition Epidemiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a M.S. in Sports Nutrition from Georgia State University, and a B.S. in Community Health,
Nutrition, and Dietetics from the University of North Florida. Dr. Affuso alsocompleted a post-doctoral fellowship in the Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences at the University of Miami.

Project Description

Dr Affuso’s project will address key questions posed by the childhood obesity team.Background and Literature Review: Several large-scale behavioral intervention trials designed to reduce obesity in school-aged children have shown only modest effectiveness. Other intervention models such as academic success may hold key information about ways to increasing efficacy of childhood obesity programs. Specific Aims: 1) Using systematic review and meta-analytic methodologies, comprehensively characterize effective academic achievement interventions designed to improve the academic performance among high risk youth. 2) Critically summarize the synergistic opportunities from academic performance programs that may be used to reduce childhood obesity among high risk youth. 3) Prioritize synergistic opportunities that may be both efficacious in preventing or reducing obesity and increasing academic performance and are feasible and acceptable by youth groups at greatest risk for obesity. Research Questions:1) What outcomes from academic performance interventions that attempt to close the achievement gap may be useful in the design of childhood obesity prevention interventions? 2) What is the effect size of academic performance interventions? 3) What intervention characteristics are associated with an increase in academic performance? 4) Which characteristics of academic performance interventions may easily translate into activities for childhood obesity interventions? Conceptual Model: The causes of childhood obesity are multi-factorial and complex requiring multi-component interventions to reduce its prevalence. The social ecological theoretical framework which will guide the proposed project posits that an individual is influenced by interconnected individual, social, environmental, and societal factors. Methods: We will conduct a comprehensive systematic search of published and unpublished studies of academic performance interventionswhich aredefined as studies that aim to improve academic achievement (i.e. achievement test scores) and close the education gap among high risk groups. Effect sizes will be calculated for each study and the Cochran Q statistic will be used to determine the appropriate statistical model for the meta-regression. Finally, the Cohen U3 improvement index will be used to calculate percentile improvement in academic performance variables.

My New Connections Experience

Upon arrival at my first faculty position at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, several of my new colleagues told me about the New Connections program of the Robert Wood Johnson foundation. The reputation of the program for supporting junior faculty and my experiences gained through the New Connections Research and Coaching Clinics solidified my decision to apply to the program. The resources made available to me through New Connections have positively impacted on my career trajectory.

The New Connections program has provided me with opportunities to learn valuable skills related to manuscript preparation and public speaking that have led to several publications and speaking engagements. The program has also connected me to a network of mentors and strong researchers from underrepresented communities. My involvement in New Connections led to a writing workshop for junior faculty at my university by New Connections presenters. Overall, being a part of the New Connections program has created a solid foundation for my success within the Academy.

Research Interests

Prevention of disease among children from minority and low income groups is my primary research agenda where my work specifically focuses on reducing metabolic abnormalities associated with obesity. I am particularly interested in the ability of physical activity to improve metabolic fitness and body composition irrespective of weight change. My research is encompassed in the following categories : • The intersection of individual, environmental, and policy factors related to physical activity and nutrition for the prevention and treatment of obesity-related metabolic abnormalities in children, particularly African American girls • Physical activity and obesity in minority populations • Social/cultural aspects of nutrition and physical activity associated weight loss and weight maintenance • Design of obesity randomized controlled trials


The Details
  • New Connections Status:
    Junior Investigator,
  • Award Year: 2010
  • RWJF Team/Portfolio: Childhood Obesity
  • Project Name:Academic performance interventions in the prevention of childhood obesity: a systematic review and meta-analysis

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