Texas Tech University

Debra Reed

Professor
Department of Nutritional Sciences
College of Human Sciences

Debra Reed

Learn more about Integrated Scholar Debra Reed, in this question-and-answer session.

What are your research objectives and interests?

My research interests include prevention of overweight in children and adults and the development of effective nutrition education programs for diverse and disadvantaged populations. Recently, my colleagues and I have focused our research on the development and testing of innovative web-based technology to reach parents with nutrition and health messages.

How do you feel your research impacts the globe?

I have had the privilege of working with international graduate students from Vietnam, Ghana, Honduras, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, Columbia, India, Sri Lanka, and other countries. Based on our research together, they are able to take research findings and techniques back to their home countries.

One example of global research and education was with a USDA marketing grant that promoted beef outside the United States. I was a collaborator on the grant with Drs. Leslie Thompson and Shelley Harp. My role was to communicate the nutritional benefits of beef to Vietnamese visitors to the U.S. who served in hospitality or government areas in their home country. To accomplish this, we developed a Who Wants to be a Millionaire- type game that included questions related to the nutritional benefits and dietary recommendations for beef. The game show format was helpful in reducing some issues with English literacy and was appealing to the jet-lagged participants.

Some of the technology based nutrition education interventions I have developed with my collaborators can be, and have been, adapted and disseminated to other settings nationally and globally. Several outcomes of my research, teaching, and service are posted on federal agency websites for researchers and educators:

What types of service projects have you been involved with?

For 10 years, I have taught a service-learning course, NS 4130 Fieldwork in Food and Nutrition. In this course, we partner with the YWCA's after school program at local elementary schools. My undergraduate students provide nutrition, snack and physical activity lessons to children ages 4-10. The lessons are delivered over a six week period and encourage increased physical activity, increased fruit and vegetable intake, increased fiber intake, increased calcium and healthier beverage choices – all behaviors related to the prevention of obesity.

Also in my graduate course, NS 5360 Advanced Community Nutrition, we have taught nutrition classes to clients at Literacy Lubbock, IMPACT Church, and other local organizations. Two outcomes of this class have been a cookbook for organizations who prepare meals for large groups of homeless or food insecure individuals and families, and a solar oven cookbook for an orphanage in Guatemala.

For 7 years, I was co-director of F.I.T. Tech which was a program for Texas Tech staff, faculty and students that encouraged team participation in meeting nutrition and physical activity goals. F.I.T. Tech received 2 state level awards and involved more than 3,000 Red Raiders.

What are you currently working on?

For the past 3 years, our research focus has been on the prevention of overweight and obesity in preschool children. The Jump2Health initiative originated as a way to help address growing national concerns surrounding childhood obesity and its related health complications. The initiative was designed to utilize advancements in technologies, such as the explosion in smart phone usage and expanded access to the Internet, to overcome challenges associated with traditional face-to-face educational interventions for parents. A multidisciplinary team of eight university faculty and five students created the Jump2Health website that includes seven healthy habits related to the prevention of obesity in children, including: more whole grains, more fruits and vegetables, less sweet drinks, less screen time, more physical activity, more family meals, and more sleep. We pilot tested the website with 226 parents of preschool children in a local school district. We are now working on Operation Jump2Health with a focus on military parents.

Where do you find your inspiration?

In my youth, my parents, both Texas Tech graduates, inspired me with their work ethic and commitment to education. During my B.S. and M.S. degrees from Texas Tech, my teachers and mentors inspired me to develop independent thinking. In the past 30 years as a faculty member at five different universities, I have found inspiration from colleagues and students to reach for the stars but to also keep my feet planted in practical application. My greatest inspiration currently is from the families in the communities I strive to serve -- those with low income and limited health literacy; the disadvantaged and those from diverse backgrounds, and those with special challenges, including the military. Their resourcefulness and resiliency in trying to be the best parents possible encourages me to develop educational interventions that are appealing and accessible.

What advice do you have for new faculty members about balancing the components of Integrated Scholarship—teaching, research, and service—in their careers?

I love to tell my undergraduate and graduate students in my classes about my research activities and how I use the theories we are learning about in class in these activities. I also describe to students service activities that I am involved in and encourage them to participate in both research and service activities, if applicable. This sharing about research and service helps students see faculty's other scholarly dimensions and what we do outside the classroom. It is thrilling to hear a student tell me "I want to be just like you and do the same things you do." Plus, articulating research to university students is a good opportunity to present information in a less formal waythan a publication or professional presentation, and in the same way we might tell stakeholders or funders about our research.

Scholar background:

I have B.S. and M.S. degrees from Texas Tech in nutrition/dietetics and completed a graduate dietetic internship at the University of Arizona. I have a Ph.D. in Community Health Science from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, School of Public Health. I am a registered dietitian nutritionist and member of the national Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a licensed dietitian with the state of Texas.