DrPH student wins fellowship to fight obesity in underserved populations

March 30, 2017

Chris ChauUC Berkeley School of Public Health DrPH candidate Christopher Chau was awarded a 2016-2017 Dr. Antronette (Toni) Yancey and Darlene Edgley Fellowship. The Yancey/Edgley DrPH Dissertation Fellowship funds dissertation research that examines innovative methods to reduce the disproportionately high risk of obesity and related chronic diseases among underserved and minority populations. Chau will receive a $10,000 award to help fund his DrPH dissertation research.

Chau’s research examines the longitudinal determinants of eating behaviors, abdominal obesity, and heart disease risk within underserved communities. His study sample consists of over 2,000 black and white girls, who were recruited from San Francisco, Cincinnati, and Washington, DC metropolitan areas and followed from 1987-1997. His work aims to expand the current obesity literature, impact clinical practice, and inform obesity prevention programs. He also serves as a Student Ambassador for Graduate Research and Diversity Services at the School and provides support and advice to applicants from underrepresented populations through the application process. In the future, he plans to explore how nutrition and physical activity policies and programs can change the social environment and influence behaviors of young children.

“I want to help move the needle with where we are with obesity prevention and management with kids,” says Chau, who is focusing his DrPH in the field of Public Health Nutrition. “That’s been my heart and soul and the reason I came back to get my doctorate.

Chau earned his BS in biology at UCLA and later returned for an MPH and registered dietitian credentials. After graduating, he worked as project coordinator for UCLA’s REACH Healthy-By-Default Project, where he collaborated with research and community partners to promote nutrition and physical activity among African American and Latino populations, nationally. Dr. Toni Yancey co-led this project and is the visionary behind 10-minute “Instant Recess” breaks designed to maximize enjoyment and energy expenditure while minimizing injury risk and perceived exertion.

“I was ecstatic to be awarded the Yancey/Edgley Fellowship,” says Chau. “I was fortunate to have worked with Dr. Yancey on her UCLA REACH project and see her visionary leadership firsthand. I will continue to carry on her legacy through my work in changing policies and lifestyle habits in underserved communities during my doctoral studies and beyond—even if it’s just 10 minutes at a time.”

Chau was recognized at the awards presentation ceremony on March 7, 2017. Over the next year, he will work in tandem with the fellowship team and advisory board to complete his dissertation, present at a conference, and provide feedback on the fellowship.  

Created by Rev. Darlene Edgley, the Yancey/Edgley Fellowship for Health Promotion, Physical Fitness and Community Health Education’s mission is to develop leaders of color who are committed to fighting obesity in underserved populations through community participatory research, intervention, and prevention using physical activity and other health promotion strategies. The fellowship continues the work pioneered by the late Antronette (Toni) Yancey MD, MPH. Another UC Berkeley School of Public Health student, Kimberly Coleman-Phox, was chosen as the first Yancey/Edgley DrPH Dissertation Fellow last year.

By Jaron Zanerhaft