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Children's Nutrition Research Center - Faculty

Houston, Texas

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Children's Nutrition Research Center - Faculty
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Deborah Thompson, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine
USDA/ARS Scientist/Nutritionist



B.S., Nutrition; University of North Carolina - Greensboro
M.S., Nutrition; University of North Carolina - Greensboro
Ph.D., Human Performance/Health Promotion; Curriculum & Instruction; University of New Orleans
Postdoctoral Fellowship, Baylor College of Medicine
Fellow, Postgraduate Course on Physical Activity and Public Health; University of South Carolina & the Centers for Disease Control

Specialized Training

Focus Group Moderator Training; University of South Florida; Richard Kreuger
Marketing Communications Certification; University of Houston

Research Interests

Behavioral Nutrition & Physical Activity

My research focuses on three separate but related, areas: the design, development, and evaluation of digital media (e.g., web-based programs; video games); health message design; and theory and measurement of youth diet and physical activity behavior. All three research areas emphasize youth obesity prevention through the promotion of positive behaviors, such as consuming more fruit, vegetables, and water and being more physically active and less physically inactive.

I am currently the principal investigator on several projects: Squire’s Quest! II: Saving the Kingdom of Fivealot, Teens in Action, and Solve It!. Squire’s Quest! II: Saving the Kingdom of Fivealot is a 10-episode, action adventure video game delivered entirely over the internet. It is designed to help 4th and 5th graders eat more fruit and vegetables. Teens in Action is a study to develop and validate a model of youth physical activity behavior in 11-13 and 15-17 year olds. Ultimately, this model will be used to develop interventions to help youth become more physically active. Solve it! is a study to develop and validate a scale to measure youth physical activity problem solving ability. When finalized, this scale will guide future interventions designed to help youth enhance their ability to identify and overcome problems that keep them from being physically active.

I am also a co-investigator on several projects, including Teen Choice, an interactive web site promoting healthy eating and physical activity to high school youth; Food Intake Recording System, a study to develop an online dietary assessment program for children and adolescents; Family Eats, an online web based program specifically designed for parents of African American children; Training Authoritative Fruit and Vegetable Parenting Skills, a study to create a prototype of a smart phone game to help parents learn ways to help their young child eat more vegetables; and Active Video Games and Sustainable Physical Activity, a study to examine the effect of Wii games on intensity and duration of physical activity among pre-adolescents. I am also a contributor on a study to reduce television viewing among Hispanic pre-school aged children.

Other interests include creating interventions tailored to psychosocial characteristics; message framing; the use of cell phones and text messages to promote physical activity; and qualitative research exploring youth diet and physical behaviors and practices. Emerging interests include examining the neural effects associated with food choice behavior; promoting the use of behavioral theory and techniques to designers of video games and other digital media; and identifying methods for enhancing log on rate to web-based behavior change interventions.

Representative Publications

Baranowski T, Cullen KW, Nicklas T, Thompson D, Baranowski J. Are current health behavior change models helpful in guiding prevention of weight gain efforts? Obesity Research. 2003. 11 Suppl:23S-43S.

Thompson D, Jago R, Baranowski T, Watson K, Zakeri I, Cullen K, Story M, Sherwood N, Pruitt L, and Matheson D. Covariability in diet, physical activity, and BMI change in an obesity prevention trial. Obesity Research. 2004. 12 Suppl:46S-54S.

Jago R, Baranowski T, Baranowski J, Thompson D, Cullen K, Watson K, and Liu Y. Fit for Life Boy Scout badge: Outcome Evaluation of a Troop and Internet Intervention. Preventive Medicine. 2006. 42:181-187.

Watson K, Baranowski T, and Thompson D. Item Response Modeling: an evaluation of the children’s fruit and vegetable self efficacy questionnaire. Health Education Research. 2006. 21 Supplement 1:i47-i57.

Thompson D, Canada A, Bhatt R, Davis J, Plesko L, Baranowski T, Cullen K, and Zakeri I. eHealth Recruitment Challenges. Evaluation and Program Planning. 2006. 29:433-440.

Dansky K, Thompson D, and Sanner T. A Framework for Evaluating eHealth Research. Evaluation and Program Planning. 2006. 29:397-404.

Thompson D, Baranowski J, Cullen K, and Baranowski T. Development of a Theory-Based Internet Program Promoting Maintenance of Diet and Physical Activity Change to 8 year old African American Girls. Computers & Education. 2007. 48(3):446-459.

Thompson D, Baranowski T, Cullen K, Watson K, Canada A, Bhatt R, Liu Y, Zakeri I. Food, Fun, & Fitness Internet Program for girls: influencing log-on rate. Health Education Research, 2008. 23:228-237.

Thompson D, Baranowski T, Buday R, Baranowski J, Juliano M, Frazior M, Wilsdon J, and Jago R. In Pursuit of Change: Youth Response to Intensive Goal Setting Embedded in a Serious Videogame. Diabetes Science and Technology. 2007. 1(6):907-917.

Baranowski T, Buday R, Thompson D, and Baranowski J. Playing for Real: Videogames and stories for health-related behavior change. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2008. 34:74-82.

Cullen KW, Thompson DI. Feasibility of an 8-week African American web-based pilot program promoting healthy eating behaviors: Family Eats. American Journal of Health Behavior. 2008. 32(1):40-51.

Thompson D, Baranowski T, Cullen K, Watson K, Liu Y, Canada A, Bhatt R, and Zakeri I. Food, Fun, and Fitness Internet Program for Girls: Pilot evaluation of an e-Health youth obesity prevention program examining predictors of obesity. Preventive Medicine. 2008. 47:494-7.

Jago R, Baranowski T, Watson K, Bachman C, Baranowski J, Thompson D, Hernandez A, Venditti E, Blackshear T, and Moe E. Development of new physical activity and sedentary behavior change self-efficacy questionnaires using item response modeling. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition & Physical Activity. 2009. 6:20.

Venditti EM, Elliott DL, Faith M, Firrell L, Giles C, Goldberg L, Marcus MD, Schenider M, Solomon S, Thompson D, Yin Z on behalf of the HEALTHY Study Group. Rationale, design and methods of the HEALTHY study behavior intervention component. International Journal of Obesity. 2009. 33:S44-51.

Schneider, M; Hall, W; Hernandez, A; Hindes, K; Montez, G; Pham T, Rosen, L; Sleigh, A; Thompson, D; Volpe, S; Zeveloff, A; Steckler, A the HEALTHY Study Group. Rationale, Design, and Methods for process evaluation in the HEALTHY Study. International Journal of Obesity. 2009. 33:S60-67.

Drews, K; Harrell, J; Thompson, D; Mazzuto, S; Ford, E; Carter, M; Ford, D; Yin, Z; Jessup, A; Roullett, J for the HEALTHY Study Group. Recruitment and retention strategies and methods in the HEALTHY study. International Journal of Obesity. 2009. 33:S21-28.

Thompson D, Baranowski T, Baranowski J, Cullen K, Jago R, Watson K, and Liu Y. 5 A Day Boy Scout Badge: Outcome Results of a Troop and Internet Intervention. Preventive Medicine. 2009. 40:518-526.

Baranowski T, Beltran A, Martin S, Watson K, Islam N, Robertson S, Berno S, Dadabhoy H, Thompson D, Cullen K, Buday R, Subar A, and Baranowski J. Tests of accuracy and speed of categorizing foods into child vs professional categories using two methods of browsing with children. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2010; 110:91-94.

Accepted or in press

Thompson D, Baranowski T, Buday R, Baranowski J, Thompson V, Jago R, and Griffith M. Serious Video Games for Health: How Behavioral Science Guided the Development of a Serious Game. Simulation & Games: An International Journal (in press) (published online December 24, 2008 Simulation & Gaming 2008, doi:10.1177/1046878108328087)

The HEALTHY Study Group. Fatness, fitness, and cardiometabolic risk factors among sixth grade youth. Medicine & Science in Sport & Exercise. Writing group members: Jago R (Chair), Drews K, McMurray R, Thompson D, Volpe S, Moe E, Linder B, Jakicic J, Pham T, Bruecker S, Blackshear T, and Yin Z. (accepted January 7, 2010) (in press).

Thompson D, Baranowski T, and Buday R. Conceptual model for the design of a serious videogame promoting self-management among youth with diabetes. Journal of Diabetes Science & Technology. (accepted February 15, 2010) (in press).

Baranowski T, Thompson D, Buday R, Lu A, Baranowski J. How to design video games for children’s dietary and physical activity behavior change. Journal of Computing in Sport (accepted March 15, 2010)

Book chapters

Thompson D, Baranowski T, Zakeri I, Jago R, and Cullen K. “School-based Environmental vs Individual Approaches to Youth Obesity Prevention”. In Childhood Obesity and Health Research (R. Flamenbaum, ed). New York: Nova Science Publishers. 2006.

Franklin P, Farzanfar R, and Thompson D. Chapter 8: eHealth Strategies to Support Adherence. The Handbook of Health Behavior Change (3rd edition). (Schumaker J, Ockene J, Riekert K, ed). New York: Springer Publishing Company. 2008.

Thompson V, Thompson D, Baranowski T. Understanding “serious videogame” storyline and genre preferences related to game immersion among low-income ethnically diverse urban and rural adolescents. In Internet Issues: Blogging, the Digital Divide and Digital Libraries. New York: Nova Science Publishers (Book Chapter) (accepted July 2009). Scheduled for cross publication by Nova Science Publishers in: INTJ 3#1/2U.

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