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Children in Balance
Jaharis Building
150 Harrison Avenue
Tufts University
Boston, MA 02111
Phone: (617) 636-3756
Fax: (617) 636-3727

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Research & Projects

We conduct rigorous scientific research to improve children's health and disseminate evidence-based interventions and "best practices" to help capitalize social change. Over the past decade, we have committed ourselves to various clinical, school, community, and population-based studies. Listed below are highlights of our work:

Community and school- based research

Mitigating Obesity in Boston's Immigrant Communities (2010-2014)

This three year grant will provide core support to engage the four largest immigrant populations in Boston--Chinese, Haitian, Dominican and Vietnamese--to participate in a community-based participatory research project in order to learn about the complex and culturally specific issues that contribute to weight gain and obesity.  A Steering Committee with representation from each of the targeted immigrant communities will help to determine intervention and research priorities, identify pilot sites and provide oversight for the initiative.

Live Well: Assessing and Preventing Obesity Among New Immigrants (2008-2012) New immigrants to the US are at high risk of weight gain and obesity as they adapt to their new obesogenic environment. This 2-year preventive intervention will be designed to moderate or reduce weight gain in mother/child dyads of new immigrants in Somerville, MA. The 435 mother/child dyads recruited to participate will be randomized to either receive the intervention or to serve as controls.  Once the main trial is completed, controls will receive a delayed intervention.  Developed with active input of our community partners, this intervention stands to benefit long-term health, in the prevention of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.

The Balance Project: Bringing Healthy Eating and Active Living to Children's Environments (2007-2010) 

Children in Balance (CIB) is replicating its successful Shape Up Somerville childhood obesity prevention project in three under-served, urban communities across the country in a two-year, control-trial research study targeting 1st-3rd graders and their families.  CIB selected six communities from a rigorous Request for Application process with similar populations and levels of readiness to participate in the research trial.  Three were randomized to receive the intervention and three to be monitored (control communities).  The three intervention cities will receive training, tools, and funding that will enable them to create an environment that surrounds children with healthier food options and opportunities for active living.  By choosing intervention and control communities at the same level of readiness, we can determine what happens over a two-year period with and without an investment of resources and inputs. 

The CHANGE (Creating Healthy, Active, Nurturing and Growing-up Environments) Project (2006-2009) is a collaborative effort with Save the Children to design, implement and evaluate a physical activity and nutrition program for low-income children living in rural areas of Central Valley, California, Mississippi River Delta, Appalachia, and South Carolina.

Shape Up SomervilleShape Up Somerville: Eat Smart. Play Hard.™ (2002-2005) focused on 1st-3rd grade children in Somerville, Massachusetts. The model for this project was based on a successful community-based environmental approach to obesity prevention. Interventions took place in various settings such as before, during, and after-school as well as the home and community to reach children throughout the day.

After School Environment Research & Outreach

The BONES The BONES (Beat Osteoporosis: Nourish & Exercise Skeletons) Project (1999-2004) aimed to promote bone health in early elementary school children participating in after-school programs. The behaviorally-based intervention included weight-loading physical activity and calcium-rich snacks, with a focus on active learning to promote skill building and self-confidence.

The HEAT (Healthy Eating, Active Time) Club (ongoing) curriculum is designed to be used with school aged children (ages 5-10) in after school programs in order to improve eating habits and increase physical activity levels. Created in connection with the Shape Up Somerville research intervention, we have implemented the HEAT Club in more than 64 programs in New Jersey and the greater Boston area.

The HEAT Club Online (ongoing) offers the HEAT Club curriculum in an interactive online format.  The HEAT Club Online has met with success in over 140 programs in 12 states.

My HEAT (Middle School Youth Healthy Eating, Active Time) (ongoing) offers some of the same research based lessons featured in the HEAT Club at a level appropriate for Middle School age children.

Environmental Assessments

Dishing Out Healthy School Meals (2010)

This study investigated the common and unique elements of school food service that helped to create a healthy school food environment in New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts schools.  We identified three diverse leading school food service systems, one in each state.  Each was studied in depth by Tufts University faculty and staff.  The official report, “Dishing Out Healthy School Meals,” along with its companion toolkit “From Soup to Nuts,” were released on November 3, 2010, by the Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare Foundation and publicly presented by Tufts researchers.  The study will culminate in a scientific report for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.


Tipping the Scales in Favor of Our Children (2007)

Children in Balance researched and wrote a report that provides a broad perspective on child health and wellness in Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, with a particular emphasis on obesity prevention for children 6 to 12 years old.   The Tipping report provided an environmental scan of the New England region, looking at programs, policies and legislative action.  It summarized the most promising programs and state/local policy opportunities for improvement.  It outlined key ingredients for social change on an issue as large and complex as childhood obesity.  Specific recommendations for action were suggested.  The report was released in the Spring of 2008 and can be accessed at the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation website..

Understanding Physical Activity Behaviors in Low-Income Children Living in Rural America (2007) is a project funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The purpose of this study is to conduct a qualitative assessment of physical activity opportunities and habits of rural American elementary school children between the ages of 6-11 years living in poor areas within the Central Valley (CA), Mississippi Delta (MS, AR), Appalachia (KY), and Southeast (GA, SC) regions of the US. This project was launched in January 2007.

Nutrition and Biological Health

Since 1998 the Tufts Longitudinal Health Study has been an ongoing investigation of the behavioral and physiologic profiles of college students to understand the individual and environmental factors that underlie health behaviors. The ultimate goal of the study is to provide the foundation and framework to build new health initiatives designed to change and enhance the existing culture and environment at Tufts.

The Assessing Vitamins in Children (2006) research project investigates the possibility that the consumption of vitamin D fortified juice will also improve vitamin status in children ages 6-9. The study is being carried out at the Friedman School in collaboration with the pediatrics departments at Tufts New England Medical Center and Boston University Medical Center (BUMC).

The Healthy Snacking and Soccer Study (2007) is funded by the California Raisin Marketing Board. This study is examining the effects of three different types of snacks on sustained energy, subjective assessments of physical and mental fatigue, and biochemical markers of stress in young children after playing soccer.


Tufts University | Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy

An initiative of the John Hancock Research Center on Physical Activity, Nutrition and Obesity Prevention at the Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy