The objective of the proposed research and training plan is to develop an independent translational research career focused on the prevention of pediatric obesity. Dr. Sabina Gesell's long-term career goal is to build an expertise in the measurement of social networks and their utility in spreading health behaviors with the purpose of developing population-based interventions that (1) target critical windows of human development associated with obesity later in life, and (2) are sustainable. The institutional environment and commitment to the candidate are ideal: Department Chair, Vice Chair for Research Affairs in Pediatrics, and Vice Chair for Faculty Development in Pediatrics are all firmly committed to her success and providing the necessary protected time and direction to attain the goals outlined in this proposal. Division Director and Primary Mentor, Dr. Shari Barkin has committed to actively supporting her through mentoring and resources to ensure project success and career development into a productive independent researcher. Vanderbilt's CTSA infrastructure to develop a successful T2 research program is unparalleled. The proposed career development plan is focused on gaining knowledge and advanced skills in social network analysis, modern longitudinal data analytic techniques, cost-effectiveness analyses, and ethics and methods of community-engaged research through (1) rigorous conduct of the research plan, (2) intensive research mentorship, (3) advanced coursework, (4) independent study, (5) faculty research seminars and working groups, and (6) national meetings. The associated research project is a social network intervention designed to facilitate healthy weight gain during pregnancy. It is estimated that 45% of US women gain in excess of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) clinical guidelines for weight gain during pregnancy. Excessive gestational weight gain is associated with gestational diabetes mellitus, pregnancy-related hypertension, complications through labor and delivery, infant macrosomia, childhood obesity, and persistent maternal obesity postpartum. Both the IOM and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) have identified the lack of effective gestational weight gain interventions as a major research gap. The goals of the proposed research project are (1) To refine a culturally-tailored social network intervention for Latina women to prevent excessive weight gain during pregnancy;(2) To conduct a randomized controlled trial with more than 120 pregnant Latinas (e16 years old) to test the effect of this community-based intervention on gestational weight gain and likelihood of gaining within IOM target ranges;and (3) To examine the extent to which healthy lifestyle behaviors during pregnancy (nutrition, physical activity) are spread through new social ties. The study will build on the trust and substantive community relationships already developed by this research team, as well as their extensive preliminary research that supports the proposed approach. The training and research will support a successful R01.

Public Health Relevance

We are proposing an innovative and cross-generational approach to stemming the obesity epidemic, which is consistent with the goals of the NIH Roadmap to generate discovery in community settings. Successful gestational weight gain interventions could prevent obesity in the child, the mother, her subsequent pregnancies, and the next generation. In addition, this study will further our understanding of how to harness the social influences of new social networks to spread health behaviors through communities.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award (K23)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Pediatrics Subcommittee (CHHD)
Program Officer
Raju, Tonse N
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Schools of Medicine
United States
Zip Code
Giannini, Courtney M; Irby, Megan B; Skelton, Joseph A et al. (2017) Feasibility of a Friendship Network-Based Pediatric Obesity Intervention. Child Obes 13:18-24
Gesell, Sabina B; Barkin, Shari L; Sommer, Evan C et al. (2016) Increases in Network Ties Are Associated With Increased Cohesion Among Intervention Participants. Health Educ Behav 43:208-16
Arinze, Nkiruka V; Karp, Sharon M; Gesell, Sabina B (2016) Evaluating Provider Advice and Women's Beliefs on Total Weight Gain During Pregnancy. J Immigr Minor Health 18:282-6
Henry, Teague; Gesell, Sabina B; Ip, Edward H (2016) Analyzing heterogeneity in the effects of physical activity in children on social network structure and peer selection dynamics. Netw Sci (Camb Univ Press) 4:336-363
Fleming, Geoffrey M; Simmons, Jill H; Xu, Meng et al. (2015) A facilitated peer mentoring program for junior faculty to promote professional development and peer networking. Acad Med 90:819-26
Gesell, Sabina B; Tesdahl, Eric A (2015) The ""Madre Sana"" Data Set. Connect (Tor) 35:62-65
Gesell, Sabina B; Katula, Jeffrey A; Strickland, Carmen et al. (2015) Feasibility and Initial Efficacy Evaluation of a Community-Based Cognitive-Behavioral Lifestyle Intervention to Prevent Excessive Weight Gain During Pregnancy in Latina Women. Matern Child Health J 19:1842-52
Tesdahl, Eric; Gesell, Sabina B (2015) Assessing the Impact of De Novo Social Ties within Health Intervention Settings: New Questions for Health Behavior Intervention Research. Clin Transl Sci 8:676-81
Karp, Sharon M; Gesell, Sabina B (2015) Obesity Prevention and Treatment in School-aged Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults-Where Do We Go from Here? Prim Prev Insights 5:1-4
Zhang, Jun; Shoham, David A; Tesdahl, Eric et al. (2015) Network interventions on physical activity in an afterschool program: an agent-based social network study. Am J Public Health 105 Suppl 2:S236-43

Showing the most recent 10 out of 16 publications