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Research Network Improving Healthy Weight in African American Populations Moves to Drexel University School of Public Health

September 1, 2015

PHILADELPHIA - The African American Collaborative Obesity Research Network (AACORN), a leading voice of scientific evidence for optimizing nutrition and physical activity lifestyles in the US black population, will move to the Drexel University School of Public Health as of September 1, 2015. Previously located at the University of Pennsylvania, the network will now be sustainably situated within the Drexel University School of Public Health, which is dedicated to improving population health, reducing health disparities, and transforming evidence into practice and policy.

“We are thrilled to welcome AACORN and Dr. Kumanyika to the Drexel School of Public Health.  AACORN’s mission is perfectly aligned with our School’s focus on generating evidence and actions to eliminate health disparities “ said Dean Ana Diez-Roux, MD, PhD, an expert in the social determinants of health.

Founded in 2002, AACORN is a national network that brings together 70 academic and community members and affiliates around the country who share the common goal of improving the quality and quantity of research addressing obesity-related health issues in black communities.

The network enables greater participation in framing and implementing the obesity research agenda from investigators who have both obesity-related scientific expertise, and social and cultural grounding in African American life experiences.  Research conducted by AACORN members and affiliates covers many key issues related to nutrition, physical activity, weight and health issues in black communities. 

Studies funded directly to AACORN during the past decade fill important evidence gaps about the disproportionate marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages in black communities through a variety of channels. 

Shiriki Kumanyika, PhD, MPH, founder and chair of AACORN, is now a research professor in Community Health and Prevention within the Drexel School of Public Health. 

“We plan to take full advantage of Drexel’s outstanding intellectual resources and infrastructure for public health research and research translation. The School’s focus on human rights and health equity will create much synergy with AACORN’s mission, and we expect to see local and national impact, and potentially globally as well.” said Kumanyika.

In addition to her research professorship at the Drexel School of Public Health in the Department of Community Health and Prevention, Kumanyika retains her title of Emeritus Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. She has been principal investigator or co-investigator on randomized multi-center and single-center clinical trials related to diet, obesity, weight control, and cardiovascular disease risk. Her research has included a focus on development and evaluation of culturally appropriate interventions for African Americans and on influences of food and beverage marketing on African Americans’ food purchases and consumption.

Kumanyika is currently the President of the American Public Health Association, having been active in the organization since 1976 and serving in various section and national leadership roles within the organization.

Kumanyika has served on numerous advisory or expert panels related to nutrition and chronic disease research and policy, both nationally and internationally. She was the vice-chair of the Department of Health & Human Services Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Healthy People 2020 objectives. She is currently a member of the CDC Task Force on Community Preventive Services, a nutrition epidemiology and policy advisor to the World Health Organization and the World Cancer Research Fund, and Co-Chair of the Policy & Prevention Section of the World Obesity Federation.  


AACORN’s sponsored research has focused on analyzing food environment inequities in black communities. The research focused initially on documenting these inequities and understanding how black children and caregivers perceive and respond to them and now focuses on identifying potential solutions to improve environments for healthy eating in black communities. 

Based on research at their home institutions, AACORN members have published comprehensive research on nutrition, physical activity, and weight-related health issues as they relate to topics ranging from body image; cancer; community-based interventions; cultural identity and ethnicity; diabetes, cardiovascular health and hypertension;  and marketing. The common theme within the network is in how these issues affect health and well-being in black adults, children and communities at large.

AACORN’s activities have been funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the Aetna Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 

To learn more about the network, please visit AACORN’s website. 

About the Drexel University School of Public Health

The School of Public Health at Drexel University is the Philadelphia region's only accredited school of public health, offering bachelor’s, master's and doctoral degrees in all areas of public health including community health and prevention; environmental and occupational health; epidemiology and biostatistics; and health management and policy.

Founded in 1996 on the principle of health as a human right, the Drexel School of Public Health is committed to improving population health and promoting health equity by generating rigorous evidence and transforming that evidence into actions. The School has a special emphasis on improving health in cities and eliminating health disparities. 

To enroll, please visit the Drexel School of Public Health website.