Shu Wen Ng

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Ph.D. Associate Professor, Nutrition

shuwen@unc.edu

CPC Office: 123 W Franklin Street, Room 2108
CPC Phone Number: (919) 962-6188

Dr. Ng's Curriculum Vitae

Dr. Ng's Google Scholar profile

Dr. Ng's publications in PubMed

Dr. Ng's CPC publications

Shu Wen Ng is a health economist who seeks to understand individual and household-level decisions about dietary and activity behaviors and their health impacts, while acknowledging that such decisions are constrained by monetary, time and biological factors, and are made within a broader environmental or policy context. To consider such behaviors, decisions and outcomes, Ng relies on tools and approaches from economics, epidemiology, sociology and public policy, and collaborates with others who have expertise in these disciplines. Her innovative research: a) combines large secondary data sources to identify potential macro-level levers (e.g., policy, industry pledges); b) creates new metrics to measure shifts in the culture of eating and physical activity, and; c) analyzes the circumstances under which these shifts occur, so as to identify areas for effective and sustainable changes in individuals’ or households’ (micro-level) health behaviors, especially among the most vulnerable. She has been co-Investigator on several foundation and NIH studies that use ‘big-data’ on commercial store sales, household purchase, and nutrition label data at the barcode level (scanner data), alongside dietary intake and nutrition databases. Analyzing such data, Ng has studied how policies such as taxation or quotas affect consumer purchases, diet, nutrition, and health outcomes across many settings. In addition, she has analyzed historical time-use data from a range of countries to estimate activity levels across domains of daily living and to identify trends and patterns by subpopulations.

Recent examples of Ng’s work that considers the time-use implications of eating and cooking behaviors found that the Great Recession was associated with only minor increases in home cooking, even among low-income households or minorities. In addition, her work with Barry Popkin evaluating the food industry’s calorie pledge shows that we can monitor and quantify the industry’s role in the progress or backsliding of the nutritional landscape, and how it may differ for various subpopulations.

Ng’s research will include collaborations with big data scientists, marketing researchers and psychologists to identify new interventions and policies (e.g., behavioral economics nudges) that encourage healthier behaviors, and evaluation of efforts by certain localities (e.g., Berkeley CA) or countries (Mexico) to implement food taxation policies and their potential impacts on food purchases and diets.

Primary Research Areas:

  • Population Health

Current Research Projects:

Information updated on 9/15/2017

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