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Center for a Livable Future


September 2010

Sara N. Bleich

Department of Health Policy and Management, Department of Epidemiology

Sara N. BleichAs a PhD student studying health policy at Harvard University and now as an assistant professor in the department of Health Policy and Management at JHSPH, Dr. Sara Bleich has been interested in public health problems that affect a wide variety of populations and have high policy relevance.  She also wanted to work on an issue that her grandfather, a corn farmer in Maryland, could understand and appreciate. So, her research focuses on obesity and its related diseases as well as public policy options for obesity prevention and control.

"Obesity affects all different types of populations, internationally and domestically," Bleich said. "It's not just restricted to marginalized groups."

The opportunity to effect change on a larger scale is what led Bleich to pursue a doctoral degree in health policy.

"The main reason I decided on a PhD and not a MD was because I wanted to address public health more broadly rather than treat one patient at a time," she said.

Bleich describes her work as fitting into two broad categories. The first focuses on understanding disparities in physician practice patterns of obesity care.  Often, she said, obesity care is sub-optimal, and very few patients actually get diagnosed with obesity-a key predictor of weight-related counseling. The second-which includes collaborations with CLF-focuses changing the food environment to encourage healthier eating and reduce caloric consumption.

One of her current projects is a corner store-based intervention to reduce sweetened beverage consumption among low-income African-American adolescents in Baltimore City.

Another project involves formative research on farm-to-table programs in the Navajo Nation. The goal of this project is to increase fruit and vegetable intake in a population with poor nutrition by linking farmers with excess crops to school systems within the Navajo nation-by first identifying the barriers and incentives to such a program.

A third project focuses on understanding the impact of doctor-patient race concordance on weight-related counseling among obese patients.

Along with the Center's staff, Bleich will work on a project examining the effect of a new Southwest Baltimore supermarket in a so-called "food desert."  

Bleich, who grew up in Baltimore City, appreciates the opportunity to give back to her hometown.

"When I took the job at Hopkins, I promised myself that I would pursue projects that help the local community."