Dr. Marie Bragg is a modern-day Johnny Appleseed. Fed up with the food industry’s impact on the diets of Americans, she is planting seeds she hopes will take root and change knowledge, attitudes and beliefs about the way our nation eats.
Through food policy research, Dr. Bragg focuses on revealing the truth about food marketing, encouraging Americans to be informed food consumers and ending the growing epidemic of obesity.
A Clinical Psychologist trained in food policy and obesity, Dr. Bragg’s research dives deep into the disturbing realities of the food industry and explores real reasons buyers’ food choices are manipulated during time spent in supermarkets, restaurants, and online. An expert in navigating the complex terrain of environmental and social factors that influence US consumers’ diets, Marie is conducting groundbreaking research to advocate for changes in US food policy.
As Director of the Socio-Economic Evaluation of Dietary Decisions (SEED) Program, Dr. Bragg conducts research on environmental and social factors associated with obesity, food marketing, food policy, and health disparities. According to Dr. Bragg, researchers have demonstrated that food companies create a “health halo” around foods that might otherwise be perceived as unhealthy. Dr. Bragg has conducted web-based studies that examine how people react to products based on what information or health claims are placed on the package. In one study, Dr. Bragg and her team explored what types of products are endorsed by professional athletes and assessed how healthy or unhealthy those products were. The research study demonstrated that athletes often promote food that is energy-dense, nutrient-poor, and teens see more of the ads for those products than adults and children.
As an Assistant Professor in the Section on Health Choice, Policy and Evaluation, Dr. Bragg has developed a research program with students from a variety of disciplines at NYU. Research interns work on collecting data, data entry, managing social media accounts, assisting with grant submissions, and drafting IRB applications. Dr. Bragg’s students have published papers and posters, and received funding for their own projects during their time in lab.
She presses her students to question and reimagine the status quo in population health. “What do we expect to happen when the best tasting and cheapest foods are the worst for you? The biggest take home point is that health education is not powerful enough in isolation, but if we combine a variety of environmental policies, we can create an environment that’s healthy by default. We need comprehensive population-level solutions as opposed to solely focusing on individual behavior change. And we need to think about policy changes that are going to alter the food and beverage environment to make healthy choices the easier choice and the cheaper choice.”
Dr. Bragg holds a doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Yale University, where she trained at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. She received the Yale University Psychology Department Teaching Award and Yale University Jane Olejarczyk Award for her role in teaching and mentoring students.