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Global Obesity Prevention Center

Using Electronic Health Records (EHR) to Study Obesity Trajectories in Children

Big data equals big results.


The Pennsylvania Project, or Project One as we here at the GOPC like to call it, exercises the use of “big data” to examine the multi-scale and longitudinal determinants of childhood obesity, including evaluation of child, parent, family, healthcare delivery system, and community factors.  The Project Investigators have gotten access to big data through an electronic health record, provided by their collaboration with the Geisinger Health System (GHS).  The GHS provides primary care services to over 450,000 patients in over 40 counties in central and northeastern Pennsylvania.  The GHS implemented its EHR system in 2001 and provided Project One with data through 2012, allowing use of over a decade of rich, longitudinal health information.  Project One’s team is linking the big data on health to longitudinal information on community conditions, including the land use, food, physical activity, and social environments.

Project One is divided into two phases.  In the first phase, EHR data on 163,000 children ages 3-18 years are linked to data on food, physical activity, land use, and social environments.  Analysis is focused on identifying separate contributions to body mass index growth of child, healthcare delivery, and community environmental factors.  In the second phase, there is new, primary data collection.  Data are collected from children, parents, and communities with different rates of obesity.  Children and parents complete a questionnaire administered by iPad, several measurements are made of the child, and saliva is collected from the child for epigenetic measurements (DNA methylation).  Analysis will then be directed to the role of gene expression in childhood obesity. 

To find out further information regarding Project One, please click here.

Meet the Team

TGLASSThomas Glass, PhD, is a Professor in the Department of Epidemeolgy at JHSPH.  Dr. Glass is the co-leader of both Project One and the Education and Training Program at the GOPC.  His most recent work explores the use of systems science methodology as it pertains to a variety of population-level health realted processes including obesity.  Please click here to see his list of publications.


bsBrian Schwartz, MD, MS, is a Professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Epidemiology, and Medicine.  Dr. Schwartz is also the co-leader of Project One.  Dr. Schwartz is working on how community environmental factors and healthcare delivery factors contribute to childhood obesity.  Much of his research on this topic involves data collected at the GHS.  Please click here to see his list of publications. 


TakTak Igusa, PhD is a Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at Johns Hopkins University as well as an Interim Director at the Systems Institute.  Dr. Igusa is also a Co-Investigator for Project One as well as the Co-PI of the Education and Training Program.  Dr. Igusa’s research interest range from system dynamic modeling to modeling framework for predicting the onset of chronic disorders.  Please click here for his website.


lbaileyLisa Bailey-Davis, DEd, RD, is an Investigator I at the GHS.  Dr. Bailey-Davis’ expertise is on prevention science in childhood obesity, multi-level health interventions, and integrated delivery system models that leverage data across systems like healthcare and schools.  Dr. Bailey-Davis applies her knowledge and skills in her Project Investigator role for Project One at the GOPC.  Please click here to see her faculty webpage.


annemarieAnnemarie Hirsch, PhD, MPH, is the Investigator I at the GHS.  Dr. Hirsch expertise is on chronic diseases, epidemiology, health services research, and health information technology.  Dr. Hirsch’s research and expertise is applied in her Project Investigator role for Project One at the GOPC.  Please click here to see her faculty webpage.



Other important team members: