Dr. Jennifer D. Roberts is a tenured Associate Professor of Kinesiology at the University of Maryland School of Public Health in College Park. She is also the Director of the Public Health Outcomes and Effects of the Built Environment (PHOEBE) Laboratory. Her focuses on the impact of built, social, and natural environments, including the institutional and structural inequities of these environments, on the public health outcomes of marginalized communities. More specifically, much of her research has explored the dynamic relationship between environmental, social and cultural determinants of physical activity and using empirical evidence of this relationship to infer complex health outcome patterns.
PHOEBE Laboratory research, such as the Built Environment and Active Play (BEAP) and Physical Environment and Active Transportation (PEAT) Studies, have incorporated state of the art techniques including spatial analysis and geographic information system modeling in order to objectively capture the role and relationship of physical activity determinants. While relying heavily on mixed methodology, crosscutting health issues, along with exposure (e.g. transit deserts) and outcome (e.g. obesity) disparities, have also been addressed in her physical activity and public health research program.
Presently, Dr. Roberts’ is leading the Purple Line Light Rail Impact on Neighborhood, Health and Transit (PLIGHT) Study in order to investigate changes in light rail use, active transportation, overall physical activity, obesity and obesity related cardiovascular risks among Prince George’s County, Maryland adults, a population comprised of over 80% African American and Hispanic residents who are predominately obese or overweight. In a prospective pre-post, case-comparison design, the PLIGHT Study will also explore how contextual effects (e.g., “sense of community”) moderate these health outcome changes with the introduction of the new 16.1 mile Purple Line light rail line.
Dr. Roberts’ was awarded a JPB Environmental Health Fellowship by Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. This fellowship will support her forthcoming research study, Gauging Effects of Neighborhood Trends and Sickness (GENTS)Study: Examining the Perceptions of Transit-Induced Gentrification in Prince George’s County. GENTS will examine the risk of transit-induced gentrification and the associated health effects (e.g., anxiety) as related to the aforementioned Purple Line light rail. While the introduction of light rail in communities often encourages physical activity by way of active transportation, gentrification is often an unintended consequence of these types of transit-oriented developments.
Dr. Roberts has also been awarded funding from the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health as well as professional development awards from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Her research has been cited by the American Heart Association and featured in the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health Friday Letter, the Washington Post, Reuters, Baltimore Sun, Bethesda Magazine and on the local Maryland News Station, WDVM TV News. She was inducted into the Gamma Zeta Chapter of Delta Omega National Honorary Society for Public Health and was selected as for a “Very Important Professionals Successful By 40” Award by “The Daily Record”.
A native of Buffalo, New York, Dr. Roberts graduated from Buffalo Seminary High School and received her Bachelor of Arts (AB) degree from Brown University. She holds a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree from Emory University Rollins School of Public Health and earned her Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) degree from Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.