Milken Institute School of Public Health, George Washington University
Dr. Uriyoán Colón-Ramos is a public health nutrition investigator with expertise working in Latin America and the Caribbean, and with underserved populations in the United States. She is trilingual (Spanish, French and English) and has worked extensively in the field of nutrition in global health through collaborations with the Instituto Costarricense de Investigación y Enseñanza en Nutrición y Salud, the PanAmerican Health Organization, the University of Puerto Rico, the University of Costa Rica, the Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública de Mexico, and the World Food Programme, among others. Her work has contributed to the knowledge of existing dietary disparities among Hispanic subgroups by country of origin, the process of translation of science into nutrition policy in Latin America, and the social and environmental determinants of dietary behaviors among vulnerable populations in the US, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Dr. Colón-Ramos holds a Bachelor of Arts, and a Master’s in Public Administration from Cornell University. She obtained her doctorate in public health nutrition from the Harvard School of Public Health under a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Fellowship. She was the recipient of a Cancer Research Training Award Fellow to complete her postdoctoral studies at the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health in the United States. In 2004 the United Nations University named her an emerging leader in nutrition in Latin America.
This secondary data analysis uses structural equation models to determine how the family environment, in the context of social drivers, impact diet quality among Hispanic/Latino adult and youth. Although the importance of adopting a healthier lifestyle through modification of diet has been well established, Latinos continue to have among the highest rates of type 2 diabetes (T2D) morbidity and related risk factors (1-4). Interventions that seek to address health behaviors by changing the built environment may be hindered or facilitated by social drivers of health behaviors (5-7). Yet, there is limited evidence on how social drivers, such as Hispanic ancestry, nativity and economic variables, interact with the family environment to impact behaviors(17-19). Family environment can modify how people react to stress, and how parents react to children and model the home food environment. Stress and the home food environment have a direct impact on food choice and cardiometabolic risk (8-13). Using a unique data set that includes behaviors and sociocultural characteristics among Latinos, I propose to provide in-depth understanding of the underlying mechanisms of family environment and diet, within a social context. This analysis is expected to advance our understanding of social drivers and health disparities to achieve healthier communities.
Why did you apply to New Connections
Growing up with limited resources in Puerto Rico shaped my interest in diet and health disparities. Today, in my classes, I often draw upon those lived experiences to illustrate the social and environmental determinants of behaviors, specifically around diet. I applied to New Connections seeking just that: ‘new connections’ with individuals and researchers from other disciplines who shared lived experiences similar to mine and who had integrated these experiences, perspectives and lived experiences with their expertise in order to make interventions for underserved populations more impactful.
Dr. Colon-Ramos’ research examines social, structural, racial/ethnic disparities in diet in order to facilitate nutrition-preventive behaviors. The focus of her work has been on populations of the US, Latin America and the Caribbean who are vulnerable to diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity. She employs mixed methods and participatory approaches to document, understand, and address cultural and socio-environmental drivers of diet behaviors. Dr. Colón-Ramos brings a unique perspective rooted in sociology and policy to the field of nutritional sciences.
Her work was among the first to identify significant differences in food group intake among Hispanic subgroups by country of origin, with potential implications on the delivery of health promotion messages and programs in this diverse group. Among immigrants, this emphasizes the need to consider habits and social, ecological determinants in the country of origin. Her work has also contributed to the process of nutrition policy around trans-fatty acids in Latin America, and to the social and environmental determinants of diet behaviors among underserved populations. More recently, her focus has been on the interactions between neighborhood, home and sociocultural determinants of diet (including drinking water), seeking to identify how to engage community partners to improve nutrition.
1: Monge-Rojas R, Fuster-Baraona T, Garita-Arce C, Sánchez-López M, Colon-Ramos U, Smith-Castro V. How Self-Objectification Impacts Physical Activity Among Adolescent Girls in Costa Rica. J Phys Act Health. 2016 Oct 24:1-20. PubMed PMID: 27775480.
2: Colón-Ramos U, Rodríguez-Ayuso I, Gebrekristos HT, Roess A, Pérez CM, Simonsen L. Transnational Mortality Comparisons Between Archipelago and Mainland Puerto Ricans. J Immigr Minor Health. 2016 Jun 22. PubMed PMID: 27334006.
3: Xu Y, Huang C, Colón-Ramos U. Moving Toward Universal Health Coverage (UHC) to Achieve Inclusive and Sustainable Health Development: Three Essential Strategies Drawn From Asian Experience Comment on “Improving the World’s Health Through the Post-2015 Development Agenda: Perspectives from Rwanda”. Int J Health Policy Manag. 2015 Aug 26;4(12):869-72. doi: 10.15171/ijhpm.2015.156. PubMed PMID: 26673477; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4663096.
4: Smith TM, Colón-Ramos U, Pinard CA, Yaroch AL. Household food insecurity as a determinant of overweight and obesity among low-income Hispanic subgroups: Data from the 2011-2012 California Health Interview Survey. Appetite. 2016 Feb 1;97:37-42. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2015.11.009. PubMed PMID: 26603573.
5: Colón-Ramos U, Racette SB, Ganiban J, Nguyen TG, Kocak M, Carroll KN, Völgyi E, Tylavsky FA. Association between dietary patterns during pregnancy and birth size measures in a diverse population in Southern US. Nutrients. 2015 Feb 16;7(2):1318-32. doi: 10.3390/nu7021318. PubMed PMID: 25690420; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4344590.
6: Tebekaw Y, Teller C, Colón-Ramos U. The burden of underweight and overweight among women in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. BMC Public Health. 2014 Nov 1;14:1126. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-14-1126. PubMed PMID: 25361603; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4228094.
7: Colón-Ramos U, Finney Rutten LJ, Moser RP, Colón-Lopez V, Ortiz AP, Yaroch AL. The association between fruit and vegetable intake, knowledge of the recommendations, and health information seeking within adults in the U.S. mainland and in Puerto Rico. J Health Commun. 2015;20(1):105-11. doi: 10.1080/10810730.2014.914607. PubMed PMID: 25204843.
8: Monge-Rojas R, Fuster-Baraona T, Garita C, Sánchez M, Smith-Castro V, Valverde-Cerros O, Colon-Ramos U. The influence of gender stereotypes on eating habits among Costa Rican adolescents. Am J Health Promot. 2015 May-Jun;29(5):303-10. doi: 10.4278/ajhp.130904-QUAL-462. PubMed PMID: 24720390.
9: Colón-Ramos U, Pérez-Cardona CM, Monge-Rojas R. Socio-demographic, behavioral, and health correlates of nutrition transition dietary indicators in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Rev Panam Salud Publica. 2013 Nov;34(5):330-5. PubMed PMID: 24553760; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4129453.
10: Colón-López V, Banerjee G, Gertz AM, Ortiz AP, Calo W, Finney-Rutten LJ, Colón-Ramos U, Hesse BW, Tortolero G. Behavioral correlates of fruit and vegetable intake in Puerto Rico: results from the Health Information National Trends Survey. P R Health Sci J. 2013 Dec;32(4):194-9. PubMed PMID: 24397217; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4994519.
11: Colón-Ramos U, Monge-Rojas R, Campos H. Impact of WHO recommendations to eliminate industrial trans-fatty acids from the food supply in Latin America and the Caribbean. Health Policy Plan. 2014 Aug;29(5):529-41. doi: 10.1093/heapol/czt034. PubMed PMID: 24150503.
12: Monge-Rojas R, Smith-Castro V, Colón-Ramos U, Aragón MC, Herrera-Raven F. Psychosocial factors influencing the frequency of fast-food consumption among urban and rural Costa Rican adolescents. Nutrition. 2013 Jul-Aug;29(7-8):1007-12. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2013.01.021. PubMed PMID: 23644009.
13: Monge-Rojas R, Aragón MC, Chinnock A, Campos H, Colón-Ramos U. Changes in dietary intake and food sources of saturated and cis and trans unsaturated fatty acids in Costa Rican adolescents: 1996 versus 2006. Nutrition. 2013 Apr;29(4):641-5. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2012.10.004. PubMed PMID: 23298971.
14: Yaroch AL, Tooze J, Thompson FE, Blanck HM, Thompson OM, Colón-Ramos U, Shaikh AR, McNutt S, Nebeling LC. Evaluation of three short dietary instruments to assess fruit and vegetable intake: the National Cancer Institute’s food attitudes and behaviors survey. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012 Oct;112(10):1570-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2012.06.002. PubMed PMID: 23017567; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3775662.
15: Monge-Rojas R, Colón-Ramos U, Jacoby E, Mozaffarian D. Voluntary reduction of trans-fatty acids in Latin America and the Caribbean: current situation. Rev Panam Salud Publica. 2011 Feb;29(2):126-9. PubMed PMID: 21437370.
16: Monge-Rojas R, Smith-Castro V, Colon-Ramos U, Garita-Arce C, Sánchez-López M, Chinnock A. Parental feeding styles and adolescents’ healthy eating habits. Structure and correlates of a Costa Rican questionnaire. Appetite. 2010 Oct;55(2):253-62. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2010.06.010. PubMed PMID: 20600415.
17: Colón-Ramos U, Thompson FE, Yaroch AL, Moser RP, McNeel TS, Dodd KW, Atienza AA, Sugerman SB, Nebeling L. Differences in fruit and vegetable intake among Hispanic subgroups in California: results from the 2005 California Health Interview Survey. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009 Nov;109(11):1878-85. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2009.08.015. PubMed PMID: 19857629; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2823482.
18: Monge-Rojas R, Garita-Arce C, Sánchez-López M, Colón-Ramos U. Barriers to and suggestions for a healthful, active lifestyle as perceived by rural and urban Costa Rican adolescents. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2009 May-Jun;41(3):152-60. doi: 10.1016/j.jneb.2008.03.002. PubMed PMID: 19411048.
19: Colon-Ramos U, Atienza AA, Weber D, Taylor M, Uy C, Yaroch A. Practicing what they preach: health behaviors of those who provide health advice to extensive social networks. J Health Commun. 2009 Mar;14(2):119-30. doi: 10.1080/10810730802659111. PubMed PMID: 19283537.
20: Finney Rutten LJ, Lazarus Yaroch A, Colón-Ramos U, Uriyoán AA. Awareness, use, and perceptions of low-carbohydrate diets. Prev Chronic Dis. 2008 Oct;5(4):A130. PubMed PMID: 18793518; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2578775.
21: Colón-Ramos U, Lindsay AC, Monge-Rojas R, Greaney ML, Campos H, Peterson KE. Translating research into action: a case study on trans fatty acid research and nutrition policy in Costa Rica. Health Policy Plan. 2007 Nov;22(6):363-74. PubMed PMID: 17951318.
22: Colón-Ramos U, Kabagambe EK, Baylin A, Ascherio A, Campos H, Peterson KE. Socio-economic status and health awareness are associated with choice of cooking oil in Costa Rica. Public Health Nutr. 2007 Nov;10(11):1214-22. PubMed PMID: 17391550.
23: Colón-Ramos U, Baylin A, Campos H. The relation between trans fatty acid levels and increased risk of myocardial infarction does not hold at lower levels of trans fatty acids in the Costa Rican food supply. J Nutr. 2006 Nov;136(11):2887-92. PubMed PMID: 17056818.
- New Connections Status: Junior Investigator
- Award Year: 2017
- RWJF Team/Portfolio: Creating Healthier, More Equitable Communities
- Project Name: Understanding the social drivers for health: Mechanisms between family environment and diet quality among Latino adults and youth