Childhood Disparities Research Laboratory

“The Childhood Disparities Research Laboratory aims to improve the health and well-being of children and adolescents through research, education, and community engagement. We focus our studies on childhood obesity and how environmental factors, including where children live, learn, and play, shape their health behaviors. With a better understanding of how biology, behavior and the environment interact to predispose kids to obesity, we hope to implement appropriate interventions that promote physical activity and healthy lifestyles for generations to come.”
Dr. Rebecca Hasson, Director and Associate Professor of Movement Science and Applied Exercise Science

Research Opportunities for Students
The Childhood Disparities Research Laboratory has openings for a doctoral student, graduate research assistant, and undergraduate research assistants. For details, please visit the employment page on the CDRL website.

Teacher Cesar Reyes and students at Munger Elementary-Middle School


SPH B858
1415 Washington Hts.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2029



Active Class Space

In collaboration with the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning and School of Public Health’s Momentum Center, Active Class Space examines the classroom environments of 3rd - 5th grades with a goal of redesigning the typical classroom to make the environment conducive to increased movement and decreased sedentary behavior among students. The objectives are to 1) to conduct a baseline metabolic and cognitive benefits of the typical classroom, 2) utilize widely accepted research methods to measure physical activity changes in students, and 3) produce an iterative set of design solutions that seek to achieve the goals of creating a more “responsive” classroom environment that promotes physical activity alongside other progressive policies that promote cognitive and intellectual growth in students. It is expected that the redesign will result in an increase of physical as well as cognitive activity and contribute to an overall decrease in risk factors that lead to pediatric obesity. This project is funded by the Michigan MCubed Program and the Michigan School of Public Health Momentum Center.

Health and Culture Project

This study seeks to better understand the role of cultural identity and identity-based motivation. These two cultural factors may help to explain racial/ethnic disparities in pediatric obesity among African-American and Latino-American adolescents. This project utilizes Identity-Based Motivation Theory to clarify the complex relationships between culture, physical activity, diet and obesity risk. Culture has important implications for obesity risk in racial/ethnic minority youth. Therefore, the overall goal of this study is to examine the relationships between cultural identity and identity-based motivation, physical activity, diet and obesity risk in African-American and Latino-American adolescents. This project will inform our laboratory’s research agenda of developing culturally-appropriate strategies to increase health promotion behaviors and reduce pediatric obesity in African-American and Latino-American adolescents. This study is funded by the University of Michigan Office of the Vice President for Research.

Stress, Obesity & Diabetes in Adolescence

Type 2 diabetes has emerged as a significant health issue in obese youth, especially among certain racial/ethnic groups including African-Americans and Latinos. This disparity is partially attributable to greater insulin resistance observed in these two groups (relative to non-Latino whites). Groundbreaking insulin resistance research investigates the role of the social environment, particularly psychosocial stressors in shaping racial/ethnic differences in type 2 diabetes. Chronic stress may serve as a novel biobehavioral mechanism explaining racial/ethnic differences in insulin resistance, ultimately influencing type 2 diabetes disparities. The overall goal of the proposed project is to examine the relationships between chronic stress and type 2 diabetes risk in obese African-American, Latino and non-Latino white youth. The integration of psychosocial and physiologic measures of stress may provide exciting new opportunities to clarify the complex pathways through which chronic stress may contribute to racial/ethnic differences in type 2 diabetes risk among obese minorities. This project is funded by the American Diabetes Association.

Stress Reactivity in Adolescence

This project seeks to investigate the role of stress on the health of Latino, African-American, and non-Latino white adolescents. In the United States alone, pediatric obesity has more than tripled in the last 30 years, particularly among certain racial/ethnic groups including Latinos and African-Americans. This innovative research study will help to clarify the interdependent relationships between stress and health behavior that contribute to disparities in pediatric obesity. The University of Michigan's Nutrition Obesity Research Center funds this project.