National Cancer Institute
Behavioral Research - Cancer Control and Population Sciences

Health Behaviors Research: Research Areas

Nutrition and Physical Education Policies

The Health Behaviors Research Branch supports multi-level policy relevant research that addresses the relationship between health behaviors, policy, and cancer prevention, in topics such as nutrition, physical activity and skin cancer prevention policy. A policy approach to understanding health behavior is grounded in the socio-ecological model, which posits that individual behavior is the product of social-contextual influences as well as individual-level predispositions. The underlying assumption of the approach is that policies at the macro-level are expected to have an impact on the micro-environment and on social norms that may, in turn, affect individual behavior. Research is necessary to determine multi-level influences on cancer-relevant behavior, to develop empirical approaches to policy assessment, to refine person-by-context measurement methodology, and to evaluate intervention approaches that target policy, social-context environment, and individual health behavior.

Tanya Agurs-Collins, PhD, RD

Frank M. Perna, EdD, PhD

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Reports & Publications

American Journal of Preventive Medicine (May 2007, Volume 32, Issue 5, Supplement, Pages 71-138). Supplement: Critical Issues in eHealth Research. exit disclaimer

The Science of Real-Time Data Capture exit disclaimer – edited book
Discusses the state of the science of real-time data capture and its application to health and cancer research. It provides a conceptual framework for ecological momentary assessments (EMA) and discusses health-related topics where ecological momentary assessments have been applied. In addition, future directions in real-time data capture assessment, interventions, methodology, and technology are discussed.

Mâsse, LC, Wilson, M, & Baranowski, T (Eds.) (2006). Item Response Modeling in Health Education and Health Behavior Research. Health Education Research, Vol. 21, Suppl. 1


Nutrition and Physical Activity Policies, Obesogenic Behaviors and Weight Outcomes
Program Announcement
This Program Announcement calls for multi-disciplinary research that will empirically delineate the hierarchy of influences of those policies at the school, home, and community levels on youth obesogenic behaviors and weight outcomes. The Social Ecological Framework is applied to examine the interrelations among polices aimed at the school and home environment, individual behaviors and weight outcomes.

State Physical Education and Recess and School Nutrition Environment Policy Classification Systems and Data
The Health Behaviors Research Branch developed this to address the childhood obesity epidemic by using policy-based approaches that regulate the school environment. The Health Behaviors Research Branch developed the School Nutrition-Environment State Policy Classification System (SNESPCS) and a Physical Education-related State Policy Classification System (PERSPCS) to monitor legislative and regulatory state policies as it relates to the school environment. This includes a database of coded statutory and regulatory data files of policies focused on nutrition and physical education related laws. The database is a valuable tool to help states monitor changes in statutory and regulatory laws with the aim of improving nutrition and physical education in the schools. The database will help researchers, public health practitioners, and policy makers develop a framework to evaluate the impact of policies on the school environment and individual behavioral outcomes.

To learn more about the policy classification systems, download data and use the policy mapping tool and generate state profiles, please visit the Classification of Laws Associated with School Students web site:

Tracking and Evaluating Physical Activity Legislative Policies
Project duration: September 2003 to May 2009
Contract withThe MayaTech Corporation

The purpose of this project was to develop a framework for evaluating the impact of physical activity legislative policies. Specifically, this project will develop a coding system for tracking policies related to urban planning, transportation, physical education, and physical activity promotion.

Last Updated: October 25, 2012

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