Sara N. Bleich

In Funded Scholars
Sara N. Bleich
Sara N. Bleich

Sara N.

Bleich

PhD

Associate Professor, Health Policy and Management
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Professional Bio

Sara Bleich, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Dr. Bleich’s research focuses on the intersection between public policy and obesity prevention/control. She is particularly interested in disparities in practice patterns of obesity care and novel environmental strategies designed to reduce caloric consumption or increase physical activity. Her past work experience includes: The Measurement Group (Research Associate), RAND Corporation (Summer Associate Program), and the Harvard Initiative for Global Health (Research Associate). Dr. Bleich is a current recipient of a K01 Career Development Award from NHLBI to explore racial disparities in physician practice patterns and patient self-management of obesity and of a RWJF Health Eating Research Award to conduct a store-based intervention to reduce sugar-sweetened beverage consumption among low income, black adolescents. Sara was recently elected to the Faculty Senate at the Bloomberg School of Public Health and is the Co-Director of the MPH Concentration in Health Systems and Policies. Sara holds degrees from Columbia (BA, Psychology) and Harvard (PhD, Health Policy).

Project Description

No prior interventions have focused exclusively on reducing adolescent sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption in real-world settings. Providing easily understandable caloric information may be a low cost, sustainable strategy for lowering overall caloric intake.

We propose to examine the effects of a store-based, environmental intervention which provides caloric information regarding SSB. The first aim is to test the hypothesis that providing caloric information in a meaningful, understandable format (e.g., percent of total daily recommend intake or physical activity equivalent) decreases the volume of SSB purchases. Our second aim is to test the hypothesis that providing low socioeconomic-status consumers with caloric information in the form of physical activity equivalents will have a larger impact on SSB sales than providing caloric information in the form of relative caloric contribution to total daily intake.

Four corner-stores in Baltimore will be randomly assigned to a caloric condition for a two-week period during which beverage sales data will be collected. Two caloric conditions will be used: 1) relative caloric information (e.g., fraction of total recommended daily intake); and 2) physical activity equivalent (e.g., minutes of basketball required to burn off a can of soda). Prior to the first condition, we will allow for a four-week baseline period followed by a week of “burn-in” time (where caloric information is posted but beverage sales are not recorded). This will allow regular customers to “see” and react to the caloric stimuli. Between each condition, we will allow for a week of “wash out” (where caloric information is removed and beverage sales are not recorded) followed by a week of “burn in.” To increase the validity of the results, the experiment will be run twice for a total of 24 weeks.

The study’s target population is Black adolescents ages 12 -17.
The study will measure SSB sales and total beverage volume.

My New Connections Experience

Before becoming a grantee, I had the opportunity to attend a New Connections Symposium. It was perhaps the best conference I had ever attended. I was so impressed by dedication of the RWJF staff to foster junior researchers and the enthusiasm of the current grantees to be a part of the program. Another factor which makes the New Connections program particularly attractive is its considerable investment in professional training and skills development. I don’t know of another grant mechanism which provides such a supportive and nurturing environment for grantees.

Research Interests

My research broadly focuses on the intersection between public policy and obesity prevention/control. I am particularly interested in examining disparities in practice patterns of obesity care and novel environmental strategies designed to reduce caloric consumption or increase physical activity. I am currently working on three main research projects. One explores racial disparities in physician practice patterns and patient self-management of obesity among adults. The second, supported by the New Connections program, is a store-based intervention to reduce sugar-sweetened beverage consumption among low-income, Black adolescents in Baltimore. The third is a pilot project on the Navajo Nation to understand the barriers to implementing a farm-to-table program, which links local farmers to the community in an effort to increase youth consumption of locally produced fruits and vegetables. My past research projects have focused on understanding global trends in adult obesity, obesity-related risk communication, access to health care services for individuals with obesity-related conditions and trends in sugar-sweetened beverage consumption. I’m currently working on three main research projects. One explores racial disparities in physician practice patterns and patient self-management of obesity among adults. The second, supported by the New Connections program, is a store-based intervention to reduce sugar-sweetened beverage consumption among low income, black adolescents in Baltimore City. The third is a pilot project on the Navajo Nation to understand the barriers to implementing a farm-to-table program, which links local farmers to the community in an effort to increase youth consumption of locally produced
fruits and vegetables. Some of my past research projects have focused on understanding global trends in adult obesity, obesity-related risk communication, access to health care services for individuals with obesity-related conditions and trends in sugar-sweetened beverage consumption.

The Details
  • New Connections Status: Junior Investigator
  • Award Year: 2009
  • RWJF Team/Portfolio: Childhood Obesity
  • Project Name: A Store-Based Intervention to Reduce Sugar-Sweetened Beve rage Consumption Among Low Income, Black Adolescents.
    Dr. Sara N. Bleich’s New Connections project investigates the impact on sugar-sweeten beverage consumption among young Black adolescences who receive consumer information about caloric intake at four Baltimore corner-stores participating in the research. In the participating stores, caloric information about sugar-sweetened beverages is provided in the form of physical activity equivalents rather than relative caloric contribution to total daily intake. The project measures sugar-sweetened beverage sales and total beverage volume during the course of the study.

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