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Health Policy Center

The Health Policy Center examines the influences of policies, programs, and other environmental factors on a variety of health behaviors. The center has examined alcohol, tobacco use, illicit drug use, and related outcomes, especially among teens, for more than a decade. Effective interventions to reduce initiation and uptake during adolescence can have a crucial and lasting impact on the significant public health, social and economic consequences caused by these behaviors.

In the past several years, the center has expanded its research to include the study of obesity. Two of three adults and one of three children in the United States are overweight or obese. Identifying policies and environmental factors that impede physical activity and good nutrition will help reverse this epidemic.

Center researchers specialize in the analysis of large datasets, meshing detailed individual-level national health survey data with extensive regional economic and environmental data from the U.S. census, Dun & Bradstreet, Nielsen Media Research and the American Chambers of Commerce Research.

A cornerstone of the center's research portfolio is the ImpacTeen research project, part of Bridging the Gap: Research Informing Practice and Policy for Healthy Youth Behavior, a collaboration between the University of Michigan and the UIC funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation since 1997. The project focuses on economic, environmental, and policy influences on youth substance use and obesity.

The Health Policy CenterĀ is part of the Institute for Health Research and Policy. As an all-campus unit, this center brings together researchers from different disciplines.

With a strong focus on the importance of policy and environmental factors on health, researchers in this center are committed to communicating their research findings to local, state, and federal policymakers and advocacy organizations. The center collaborates with researchers and institutions internationally, including the World Health Organization. The center also works closely with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to communicate its findings. View our list of partners.

Frank Chaloupka, distinguished professor of economics, directs the center.

Researchers in the Health Policy Center currently aim to:

  • Identify causes of obesity among U.S. youth by examining the relationship between weight and economic and environmental factors, such as food prices and access to food stores, restaurants and places of physical activity, and school policies regarding food, fitness and wellness. [more]
  • Strengthen community plans to reduce obesity by determining which neighborhood features contribute to obesity among adolescents. [more]
  • Determine whether or not TV food advertising affects children's diet, physical activity and weight. [more]
  • Reduce tobacco use by identifying the characteristics of anti-smoking TV commercials that affect smoking rates and perceptions. [more]
  • Examine the effects of state and local sales taxes on beverage purchases by U.S. households and weight among adults and adolescents. [more]
  • Decrease tobacco use worldwide by tracing the effects of tobacco taxes and policies in developing countries.

As part of the University of Illinois at Chicago, the Health Policy Center nurtures the development of new scientists by offering research assistantships and post-doctoral fellowships and by mentoring new scientists in their pursuit and fufillment of career development grants.