Population Health Faculty Member Awarded ‘High-Risk, High-Reward’ NIH Grant to Study Food Marketing Targeting Minority Youth

Dr. Marie Bragg is first faculty member at NYU Langone to receive the award

Wednesday, October 07 2015

Marie Bragg, PhD

Marie Bragg, PhD

Marie A. Bragg, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone Medical Center, is one of 78 scientists across the United States to whom the National Institutes of Health has awarded a High-Risk, High-Reward grant from its Common Fund. The grant will fund Dr. Bragg’s research into marketing of unhealthy food to minority youths and the relationship to childhood obesity. Dr. Bragg, an expert in food marketing, is the first researcher at NYU Langone Medical Center to receive the NIH’s Early Independence Award, one of four awards in the Common Fund. She is one of 16 recipients of the award across the country this year.

“Research has already shown that food companies are disproportionately targeting racial/ethnic minority youth with unhealthy products, which is concerning because it may exacerbate health disparities,” said Dr. Bragg. “The NIH Early Independence Award gives us an exciting opportunity to examine how these racially-targeted food ads are affecting African American and Latino youth.”

Dr. Bragg will examine how exposure to racially targeted food and beverage ads affects adolescents’ food preferences, perceptions of products, and food choices. African American and Hispanic teens are a key target for marketers because they are perceived as “cultural trendsetters.” Studies show children exposed to food ads are more likely to request the advertised food and consume more food. The connection between marketing and consuming more food is particularly concerning because obesity prevalence is higher among Hispanic youth (22.4 percent) and African American youth (20.1 percent) than non-Hispanic White youth (14.1 percent).

High-Risk, High-Reward grants are awarded to scientists proposing highly innovative approaches to major contemporary challenges in biomedical research. Awards support exceptional investigators pursuing bold research projects that span the broad mission of the NIH.

Established in 2011, the Early Independence Award provides an opportunity for exceptional junior scientists who have recently received their doctoral degree or finished medical residency to skip traditional post-doctoral training and move immediately into independent research positions.

“This program has consistently produced research that revolutionized scientific fields by giving investigators the freedom to take risks and explore potentially groundbreaking concepts,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD.

Dr. Bragg, who has a joint appointment at NYU’s College of Global Public Health, earned a doctorate in clinical psychology from Yale University, where she trained at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. She directs the SocioEconomic Evaluation of Dietary Decision (SEED) Program, which conducts research on environmental and social factors associated with obesity, food marketing, food policy, and health disparities. Her recent studies have examined the food and beverage industry’s use of professional athlete endorsements in promoting unhealthy products; evaluated various advertising techniques used on packaged foods in supermarkets; and assessed intrapersonal and social factors that influence food and beverage preferences.