Who We Are

Primary Investigator

Sean Cash, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University with expertise in the economics and policy of food, nutrition, and the environment.  Dr. Cash is also an adjunct professor at the University of Alberta, Canada. His research focuses on how food, nutrition, and environmental policies affect both producers and consumers.  Ongoing and recent projects in this area include the efficacy of food label and price interventions as public health and environmental tools, including linkages to disease incidence; economics aspects of obesity; economic barriers to adherence to diabetes treatments; children’s food choices in commercial and school environments; the role of agricultural policies on nutrition; how consumers value social aspects of food relative to other attributes; and how point-of-sale health messaging impacts consumers’ demand for food.  He also conducts research in the areas of environmental regulation and resource conservation.  Dr. Cash has been involved extensively in policy and public-facing work, including testimony on childhood obesity interventions to the Canadian Parliament and service on a National Academy of Sciences panel on invasive species impacts of food trade.  He was previously on faculty at the University of Wisconsin – Madison and the University of Alberta, and has worked at Resources for the Future, the Environmental Protection Agency, and Arnold & Porter.

Co-investigators & Study Staff


Dr. Anna McAlister is Assistant Professor in the Department of Advertising + Public Relations at Michigan State University. She has a Ph.D. in developmental psychology and completed three years’ postdoctoral training in marketing. Since 2003, Dr. McAlister has been conducting research with children and their parents, teachers, and caregivers. Her studies are primarily focused on understanding children as consumers. Dr. McAlister is particularly interested in public policy issues surrounding food and beverage marketing that is directly targeted to children and teens. Recent papers are published in Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, Journal of Advertising, Cognitive Development, and International Journal of Advertising.
Affiliation: University of Michigan


Christina Economos, PhD is the Vice-Chair and Director of ChildObesity180, New Balance Chair at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and the School of Medicine at Tufts University

Dr. Economos’ research efforts have addressed the interaction among nutrition, exercise, body composition, bone health, and the built environment, toward preventing osteoporosis and obesity, starting in early childhood. As the principal investigator of large-scale research studies, her goal is to inspire behavior, policy, and environmental change to reduce obesity and improve the health of America’s children. She has worked effectively with diverse communities and has crafted, implemented, and evaluated a physical activity and nutrition education curriculum. At ChildObesity180 she blends scientific evidence and rigor with innovation and experience from the private sector to develop, implement, evaluate, and scale high-impact obesity prevention initiatives. Dr. Economos led the Shape Up Somerville study demonstrating that it is possible to reduce excess weight gain in children through multiple leverage points within an entire community.
Affiliation: ChildObesity 180

Community Partner

Lisa Robinson, M.P.H, R.D. is the Director of Shape up Somerville (SUS) at the Healthand Human Services Department for the City of Somerville. SUS is a city-wide strategy to increase daily physical activity and healthy eating through systems change using the collective impact model. The strategy targets all segments of the community, including schools, government, civic organizations, community groups, businesses, and other people who live in, work in, and visit Somerville.  Prior to SUS, her primary role was as aRegistered Dietitian working in settings spanning from hospitals, pediatric and adult weight management clinics, worksites and research.  She received her Master’s in Public Health at Tufts University while working as a research dietitian at the Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. 
Affiliation: Community Partner

Community Partner

Erica Satin-Hernandez joined the Shape Up Somerville team as Coordinator in August 2014.  Prior to that, she served as an AmeriCorps VISTA through Massachusetts Campus Compact at Tufts University, where she worked at the Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service on their many campus-community partnerships. She graduated in 2013 from Tufts University with a BA focused on Community Health and American Studies.
Affiliation: Community Partner

Research Staff, Project Managers, and Coordinators

Megan Lehnerd, PhD
Suzanne Howell
Emily Piltch, PhD, MPH
Ally Gallop, RD

Former Contributors

David Hudson, MS – Former Director, Shape Up Somerville
Cathleen Prata, MPH – Former Grants and Research Coordinator
Katie Helwig, MS, MPH – Former Project Coordinator
Emily Caplan – Former Research Consultant