Research > Public Health Nutrition


Most American’s diet quality is poor. In Texas, this has contributed to a high rate of obesity, rising sharply from 12% in 1990 to 36% in 2020. This results in high levels of chronic disease like diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and obesity. Texans spend about $239 billion annually on health care. More than 80% of the health care costs are due to chronic conditions.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the impact of obesity on the immune system. Recent research finds that aside from vaccination, meeting physical activity recommendations and managing one’s weight are the most important actions one can take to minimize the risk of severe COVID-19.

Why has the obesity rate increased so much? We know that calorie intake has increased, and physical activity has decreased, as obesity rates have increased. Our research looks to understand why Texans eat more calories than necessary. We also study the impact of policy, educational, and environmental strategies intended to improve diet quality and calorie intake.

In the News

UNCC public health professor weighs in on vaccine lottery Source: WBTV, Kristi O’Connor, June 11, 2021

Getting Back to a Pre-Pandemic You Source: WBTV QC Morning, Kristen Miranda, August 24, 2020

The facts about alcohol during stressful times amid COVID pandemic Source: WBTV On Your Side with James Boll, April 1, 2020

Questions persist as another municipality regulates dollar stores Source: Next City, Adina Solomon, February 11, 2020

Is it time to retire the term “food desert?” Source: The New Food Economy, Jessica Fu, January 9, 2020.

German Discount Grocer Lidl Opens First Store in Charlotte Source: WFAE, Michael Falaro, December 4, 2019

Can technology extend grocers’ reach into food deserts? Source: Grocery Dive, Julia Dumant, May 22, 2019

Food stamp recipients can now order groceries online for delivery. Amazon, Walmart, and ShopRite will offer this service. Source: CNN Business, Nathaniel Meyersohn and Tami Luhby, April 18, 2019

Cheap Supermarkets are Conquering the USA Source: St. Galler Tagblett, Renzo Ruf, January 7, 2019

Dollar General tries to make healthy food more accessible Source: CNN Business, Nathaniel Meyersohn, December 5, 2018

Food Deserts: 9 Investigates Thousands in Charlotte struggle to find healthy food options Source: WSOCTV, Allison Latos, November 1, 2018

Dollar General throws a lifeline to hard-pressed communities. Not all welcome it Source: LA Times, Tom Zoellner, October 5, 2018

Why we should pay attention to calorie counts on restaurant menus Source: WCNC Charlotte Today August 24, 2018

Americans are pretty good at counting calories Source: Morning Consult, Joanna Piacenza, July 18, 2018

How we can make healthier choices to fight obesity Source: WCNC Charlotte Today February 8, 2018

Why Americans are obese and what we can do about it Source: WCNC Charlotte Today December 19, 2017

The Dollar Store Boom Source: The Eugene Weekly, Morgan Theophil, December 14, 2017

The Surprising Impact of Your Neighborhood Dollar Store Source: Morning Consult, Joanna Piacenza, November 20, 2017

Obesity and Physical Activity among Charlotte Mecklenburg School Students Source: WCNC Charlotte Today October 20, 2017

Dollar General Hits a Gold Mine in Rural America Source: Bloomberg Businessweek, Mya Frazier October 11, 2017

Study: Young CMS students not exercising nearly enough Source: WCNC October 10, 2017

Building Healthy Lifestyles in All Directions Source: UNC Charlotte YouTube September 27, 2017

Beth Racine, DrPH, RD

El Paso Center Director & Associate Department Head for Nutrition Extension



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